One of the first questions candidates will hear when they tell someone they want to run for office is “Can you raise the money?”. Is it as morally important as “Why are you running for office?” or “What can you do for the community?”. No, of course not, but to establish confidence in a campaign, a candidate needs to post decent numbers to be taken seriously.
There will be at least four seats up for grabs next year on the county commission. Districts 2, 4 and 6, then there is the race for Orange County Mayor, one of the most powerful elected positions in Central Florida.
Does winning the money race guarantee victory? Absolutely not. Ask Pete Clarke about his 2012 District 3 race, ask Victoria Siplin about her 2014 District 6 race, there are plenty of examples of candidates overcoming a fundraising disadvantage to win. It’s not easy but it can be done.
Let’s examine final fundraising totals for each midterm county commission race dating back to 2010:
Orange County Mayor:
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs raised $552,595 in her first campaign in 2010. The remarkable aspect is that TJ was a late entry and didn’t jump in until January when the other major contenders had been campaigning for months. She overcame that late start to defeat a candidate that had raised over $1 million dollars.
In 2014, Jacobs’ only major opponent unexpectedly dropped out, essentially leaving her unopposed. She had $650,387 in the hopper if needed, and probably could have broken the $1 million mark if needed.
The 2018 Orange County Mayor will probably cost at least a million dollars to win, especially if several major candidates get in.
Orange County Commission District 2:
In 2010, Fred Brummer faced no major opposition and banked $109K.
In 2014, former State Representative Bryan Nelson raised $218,235 in a crowded field to win. He almost ran the gauntlet to take the race in the primary but came up slightly short pushing the contest a little further
The 2018 winner in D2 will likely have to raise somewhere around the same number. Turnout in that area is difficult to predict during midterms.
Orange County District 4:
In 2010, Jennifer Thompson raised $172,343 in a talent heavy race to win her first term.
In 2014, JT actually raised less as an incumbent running for reelection banking $166,235. It’s worth noting that Thompson is a tough campaigner and was never considered in danger during that campaign.
Orange County Commission District 6:
In 2010, then Incumbent District 6 Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell raised raised $104K. She would be termed out and win the race for Orange County Clerk of Courts in 2014.
In 2014, current incumbent Victoria Siplin raised only $54,138 to defeat an opponent that raised almost $224K. It’s worth noting that Siplin did carry high name ID from her Husband, former State Senator Gary Siplin, who had served for years in the state legislature and maintains a visible presence with his law practice. A remarkable victory still.
The X Factor: Outside Money
One thing every candidate running for office needs to keep an eye on is the influx of outside money. It played a major role in multiple races last year involving Orange County voters. It’s unknown how much outside groups will spend in 2018 and if it should increase, it could completely change the complexion of several races in the area.