Tuesday will see the conclusion of the Democratic Primary for Attorney General, capping a 2022 campaign in which the contest to succeed Ashley Moody was virtually unnoticed. The three qualifying contenders head into Tuesday with little idea of who might win the race due to poor fundraising compared to the incumbent, whose political machine continued to work over the summer unhindered by a Primary.
Daniel Uhlfelder, a Santa Rosa Beach attorney who gained notoriety for dressing up as the Grim Reaper during the pandemic, has been the most successful and possibly the most financially savvy of the contenders. He was the only candidate in the Primary field to accept campaign matching funds from the state of Florida, a source that Moody has also used, as his campaign bragged at the time.
We were able to obtain these crucial monies because of the help of thousands of Floridians, said Uhlfelder. Democrats desire to select a victorious candidate. We can accomplish that and put the Attorney General’s Office back in Democratic control with the aid of this money. He raised close to $370,000 during the whole campaign as of August 18
the latest day for which totals are currently available, and set aside slightly over $61,000 for conceivable last-minute spending. Over $40,000 of that was raised between August 6 and August 18, which enabled over $137,000 to be spent during that time, the majority of it on advertising. Through the end of August, a connected political committee named Hold Tallahassee Accountable had spent more than $63,000 of the nearly $68,000 it had raised during the campaign.
Sen. Jason Pizzo, the chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and a former assistant state attorney is one of the notable supporters of Uhlfelder. In a statement supplied by the Uhlfelder camp, Pizzo said, “He has been a vocal and intrepid champion for Floridians – standing up to those who care only about a select few.” Jim Lewis and Aramis Ayala didn’t have the financial resources to compete with Uhlfelder.
Ayala, the first Black state attorney in the nation, raised nearly $116,000 between the start of her campaign in March and the end of her one-term tenure on August 18, with $8,000 still in cash. During the final 12-day period for which records are available, she was unable to compete with Uhlfelder. Just over $10,000 was raised by Ayala, which is around 25% less than Uhlfelder.
Despite coming in a distant second place in terms of fundraising, Ayala has an edge over Uhlfelder in terms of endorsements. Her strongest endorsements, which came in the form of a group of Black legislators endorsing Ayala early this month, came after the Collective PAC backed her early on. One of the many quotes in the Ayala campaign release said,
“Aramis Ayala is the only Democratic candidate for AG who has done the walk and talked the talk for her entire career – we can trust she to stand up for us, no matter what.” They include Sens. Randolph Bracy of Orlando, Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, Shevrin Jones of Miami Gardens, Rosalind Osgood of Ft. Lauderdale, and Bobby Powell of Palm Beach County. Ayala is a former state attorney from Orlando. Powell and Gibson have served as the Senate Democrats’ leaders in the past.
Democratic Leader-designate Fentrice Driskell of North Tampa and her colleagues from the region, Reps. Dianne Hart and Michele Rayner, are among the House members who are supporting Ayala. There are also representatives from South Florida, including Christopher Benjamin, Kevin Chambliss, Jervonte Edmonds, Dotie Joseph, Felicia Robinson, Patricia Williams, and Marie Woodson, as well as representatives from Ocoee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Yvonne Hayes Hinson, Orlando, and Windermere.
The minimalist campaign of Fort Lauderdale attorney Jim Lewis, who raised and spent less than $25,000 from start to finish of the campaign, with the majority of that activity being self-funded, presents an additional challenge for Uhlfelder and Ayala. Regardless matter who prevails in this one, the General Election will be a terrifying test. Currently, incumbent Moody’s campaign account contains around $1.45 million in cash. Nearly $5 million has been set aside by her Friends of Ashley Moody political group as well.