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Uhlfelder draws state matching money

Daniel Uhlfelder
Daniel Uhlfelder

Daniel Uhlfelder, a Northwest Florida lawyer hoping to take on Attorney General Ashley Moody in November, has joined the candidates drawing campaign matching money from the state.

The Florida Division of Elections on Wednesday reported that Uhlfelder, one of three Democrats running for attorney general, received $129,447 from the controversial matching program on Friday. The distribution was the first time Uhlfelder has drawn matching dollars.

A total of $7.5 million has been distributed to candidates for governor and state Cabinet seats this year. Gov. Ron DeSantis remains the largest recipient of the program, picking up $110,717 on Friday to increase his matching-dollar total to $4.35 million.

In the program, public funds are provided to match contributions of $250 or less from individuals to candidates’ campaign accounts. Matching funds are not available for contributions to political committees or outside of statewide races.

Candidates accepting the state money must pledge to limit overall expenditures. Gubernatorial candidates are ineligible for the money until they collect $150,000 in contributions. For state Cabinet candidates, the threshold is $100,000.

In a news release Monday, Uhlfelder criticized his primary opponents, former Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Fort Lauderdale attorney Jim Lewis, for not seeking matching funds. The news release said they would “leave significant funds on the table” if they ultimately get the nomination to run against Moody in November.

Moody had received $239,993 in matching funds as of Friday.

As of July 29, Uhlfelder had raised $187,916 for his campaign account, while Ayala had raised $104,323. Lewis had raised $5,750 and loaned $15,000 to his campaign.

DeSantis had raised $17.4 million for his campaign account, while Moody had raised about $1.56 million.

Voters put the matching-funds program in the state Constitution in 1998, with the measure billed as a way to reduce the influence of big-money contributors.

In 2018, the last time the ballot included a gubernatorial race and campaigns for three state Cabinet seats, $9.85 million in matching funds went to 10 candidates. DeSantis received $3.2 million in matching funds that year.

This year, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried have drawn a total of $2.16 million from the program.

Crist, a congressman from St. Petersburg, received $32,300 in matching funds Friday, bringing his total to $1.38 million. Fried, the state agriculture commissioner, received $16,710 on Friday to bring her matching-funds total to $779,584.

As of July 29, Crist had raised about $7.4 million for his campaign account, while Fried had raised $3.37 million.

State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Republican, also has tapped the matching-funds program, receiving $167,266 as of Friday.

Jim Turner - News Service of Florida