It's been 19 years since Democrat Lauren Baer lived in Florida, but it appears an urge to run for office -- and an out-of-state push for her candidacy -- may have been what brought her back from New York to run for Congress.
For months Democrats have been trying to capitalize on any chances in sight to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. And Baer, a longtime Democratic activist, may not be a local face, but she's got access to money, is willing to uproot her life to a new district and run for office.
Her out-of-state connections haven't dissipated since she stepped foot in Florida either -- most of her contributions, according to recent data, are from out-of-state donors.
Since announcing her candidacy in early October, Baer has turned heads. She has deep roots in the Democratic Party, with extensive connections among some of the country’s top Dems in recent years.
She served in the Obama administration as a senior policy advisor to former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Baer also worked as a senior policy advisor to former U.S. ambassador Samantha Power when President Barack Obama was in office.
Eventually, Baer came back to Florida after spending nearly 20 years in the Northeast.
She told TCPalm she was coming home to help raise her family.
"I'm so proud to be coming home here to raise my family in this district," Baer told TCPalm. "What I know about this district, it's always been the kind of place that not only welcomes newcomers but welcomes back home people who are from here."
But once she got back to the Sunshine State, she almost immediately determined she was running for Congress. Baer’s apparently making a headfirst dive back into the world of CD18, where she has only lived, according to records, for a month and a half.
Voter records show Baer switched her registration to Florida at the end of September. A week later, she formally announced she would challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast for the seat, which stretches from Fort Pierce to Palm Beach.
Records show she’s registered to vote at her parents, in the ritzy Mirasol community in Palm Beach County, where houses frequently sell for millions of dollars.
According to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, Baer’s parents, Nancy and Richard Baer, claimed a homestead exemption on the 4,400-square-foot house.
Florida law says only permanent Florida residents can claim the exemption at their primary residence.
Like any political campaign, money is likely to be a huge factor in the race -- and Baer’s friends in New York have been quick to pitch in for her Florida-based bid. Last month, federal election reports found the new candidate raised $255,000 during the month of October, with a significant chunk of that campaign cash coming from outside of Florida state lines.
Baer’s Northeast connections clearly extend beyond her 20-year stint in the area. According to recent fundraising reports, more than 75 percent of her itemized contributions came from out-of-state donors, with the most contributions coming from New York.
To put it in perspective, those numbers are nearly double the contributions that came from Florida, where Baer is running.
For perspective, nearly half of Mast’s contributions during the 2016 cycle came from Florida -- so far, he’s reported a total of 42 percent of his donations coming from Florida for his 2018 bid.
The Mast campaign team said the congressman was solely focused on helping his constituents, who in return have given back to fund his reelection bid.
“Congressman Mast's focus is on working to serve the people in our community, including cutting taxes for the middle class and preventing harmful algal blooms,” said Mast spokesperson Brad Stewart. “His steadfast focus on improving the lives of people in our community has earned him broad grassroots support -- small dollar contributions make up 95 percent of his total donations with a median donation of $25.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee was quick to pounce on Baer, saying it shouldn’t be a shock she would uproot her life to run for office.
“Given that Lauren Baer hasn’t lived in the district in over 19 years, it’s unsurprising that she has raised a significant majority of her money out of state,” said NRCC spokesperson Maddie Anderson. “She should ask Jon Ossoff how this narrative ends.
Baer isn’t the only Democrat to raise eyebrows in the race to knock Mast out of his seat. Earlier this year, Democrat Pam Keith made headlines when she announced she was running for Congress and began fundraising before actually filing her paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission.
Sunshine State News attempted to contact Baer but had not received a response at the time of this article’s release.