A Jump On The Competition?

Under The Hood


Since Erik Arroyo first announced he would end his run for state House, I’ve watched to see when he disappeared from the Division of Elections’ list of active candidates. He remained there for weeks, but not because of any reluctance to leave the coming firefight that is the GOP primary in District 72. Rather, he went through a lengthy and surprisingly under-used process of transferring his state accounts to local office.

“Literally nobody I knew had ever gone through this process,” Arroyo notes.

The Sarasota attorney became the first Sarasota City Commission candidate to file for the 2020 elections. He’s now running in District 3, currently represented by Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie.  Since he already had raised $22,152 toward his state House run, transferring his candidacy gives him a jump on raising money.

But not as big a jump as it sounds. The City of Sarasota enforces much stricter rules on campaign fundraising. Donors who gave $1,000 toward his state run (and several did) can only give $200 to a city campaign. Only people, not corporations, can send checks. And of course, no money transfers over at all from donors who thought they were supporting a state House run but don’t want their money going to a city election.

Arroyo asked donors if they want their money back. They have 30 days from that point to decide. That should all get sorted out by early July. In the end, Arroyo will get a fraction of his state House money to use. But then, the race hopefully won’t be as costly an affair.

Arroyo jumped to the local contest for a variety of reasons. One was the greater ability to influence city policy as one member of a five-commissioner board, as opposed to a freshman lawmaker in a 120-member collegial body, itself one half of a bicameral Legislature.

But as alluded to before, this particular House race demands rigor and seems destined for rancor. It’s been a Democratic-held seat for barely a year, filled now by state Rep. Margaret Good. A prolific fundraiser and energetic campaigner, Good won the seat in a special election in February 2018, then held it in November. She’s already got $40,708 raised for her re-election effort. But Good last November won by less than 1,200 votes, about 1.4 percent. Republicans see this as a seat they can take back in a presidential election year.

Just to evidence that, Arroyo was one of three candidates to file for the seat so far. Charter Review Board member Donna Barcomb has raised $46,465 in contributions. That’s more than Good, though notably Good was prohibited from raising money during the Legislative Session.

More recently, newcomer Fiona McFarland, a Navy Reserve officer whose mother happened to be President Trump’s first deputy national security advisor, also entered the fray. She’s already won over heavy political hitters in the area like former County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, and some see her as a rising star.

“It’s going to be one of the toughest races in the state of Florida,” Arroyo said, “if not the toughest.”

At least on paper, running for city commission should be easier. But Arroyo may well face an incumbent here. This cycle also marks the first time a Sarasota City Commission race happens concurrently with a presidential election. It remains to be seen if the boost in turnout comes with a higher cost for candidates trying to pierce through the noise of presidential politics.

Either way, Arroyo’s found a couple ways to get a jump on potential competitors. If nothing else, he’s the only guy already knocking on doors.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.

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