Nearly $250,000 has been spent since the end of May by three of four Republicans running in a special election in a state House district that includes major Orlando-area tourist attractions.
And while the District 44 contest won’t be decided until a special general election on Oct. 10, the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will be the favorite to finish the term of former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando.
GOP candidate John Newstreet, president of the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce, is tops in raising money and spending, according to newly filed finance reports, followed by Robert Olszewski, Bruno Portigliatti and Usha Jain.
The district, which leans heavily Republican, goes from Winter Garden south to Lake Buena Vista and is home to Walt Disney World, Universal Florida and SeaWorld Orlando.
Newstreet, 40, of Orlando, raised $59,175 between July 7 and Thursday, according to reports posted on the state Division of Elections website.
In all, Newstreet has raised $124,554 for the special election, of which more than $111,000 had been spent as of Thursday.
More than half of Newstreet’s spending has gone to the Orlando-based consulting firms The Red Envelope and Millennium Consulting.
Olszewski, 39, a business consultant and former Winter Garden commissioner, reported $23,050 in contributions from July 7 through Thursday.
In all, Olszewski had raised $75,980 and loaned $1,750 the campaign, with all of that money spent. Most of the spending — $65,771 — went to Tampa-based Strategic Image Management for campaign consulting and direct mail.
Portigliatti, 29, the CEO of Excellence Senior Living and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, reported raising $14,760 during the most-recent period, bringing his overall total to $65,581. More than one-third of the money, $26,500, had come from the candidate.
He had spent $54,761, with much of the money going to Spencerville, Maryland-based SRH Media for advertising and to Tallahassee-based EM Campaigns for consulting, direct and online marketing.
Jain did not report raising any cash but has spent $3,400 on campaign signs and other advertising. Jain, 66, is a doctor and medical director at Emergi Care Medical Center in Windermere.
Awaiting the winner is Democrat Paul Chandler, whose eligibility for the race is the subject of a lawsuit filed last week in Leon County. He had raised $3,508, including $2,168 during the most recent filing period.
Chandler has also put up $21,792 of his own money and the Florida Democratic Party has chipped in $250.
The complaint by Charles Hart of Windermere claims Chandler is an active registered voter in Missouri and has voted in that state as recently as Nov. 8, 2016. Florida law requires candidates to be a resident of Florida for the two years prior to the election.
Republicans make up 36.1 percent of the registered voters in House District 44, while Democrats make up 32.4 percent. But the district has gone heavily in the past to Eisnaugle, who left the House this spring after being appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal.
Eisnaugle, who went unopposed in the 2016 general election, received 64.6 percent of the vote in 2014 November general election when challenged by independent Matthew Falconer.
Eisnaugle got 74.2 percent of the vote in a March 11, 2014, special election over Democrat Shaun Raja.
Republish with permission of the News Service of Florida.