Nearly $3.5 million in public matching funds were distributed to seven candidates – including three gubernatorial candidates who drew a combined $2.6 million – when the first checks went out Friday.
The initial amounts indicate candidates may quickly top the state’s contributions to candidates in the 2014 election.
Four years ago, the state distributed $4.34 million in matching funds to six statewide candidates, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam during the primary and general elections.
The first matching fund checks issued in 2014, also distributed the final week of July, totaled $948,838.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who made an unsuccessful bid to return to the governor’s office in 2014, drew $2.58 million, the most of any candidate in that year’s election cycle.
This year, Putnam, who is running for governor, got $932,471 in Friday’s payments, while his Republican primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, received $643,226, according to numbers posted by the Division of Elections.
Candidates are eligible to receive matches of individual contributions of $250 or less. No public money is dispensed until candidates for Cabinet positions reach $100,000 in such relatively small-dollar contributions received since last September. For gubernatorial candidates, the threshold is $150,000.
Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate to qualify for the state public funding program, received $991,598.
Among attorney general candidates, former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, a Republican, got $283,748, and Democrat Sean Shaw, a state House member from Tampa, received $138,993.
Republican Frank White, who is battling Moody in the GOP primary for attorney general, has made an issue of her statements that she stands for reducing government waste while she has sought public matching funds.
Moody has countered that the public matching-dollar program was established to combat “self-funding” by inexperienced candidates.
White has put $2.77 million of his own money into the campaign, while the family-owned auto dealership Sansing Holdings, where he is general counsel and chief financial officer, has added $250,000 through the political committee United Conservatives.
State Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Republican from Sebring running for agriculture commissioner, received $225,696 in matching funds.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Republican who has no primary opponent, picked up $268,668 in matching funds.
In 2014, Putnam, seeking re-election as agriculture commissioner, received $459,009 in matching dollars. In 2010, when first running for the office, Putnam drew $587,396 in matching funds.
In 2010, the state doled out a combined $6.1 million in matching funds.
Bill McCollum, a former state attorney general who sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, was the biggest user of the program. McCollum received $1.82 million before being knocked out in the primary.
Gov. Rick Scott, who topped McCollum in the 2010 primary, didn’t draw any matching funds in 2010 or 2014 as he used his own personal wealth in both campaigns.
Bondi received $328,016 in matching funds in 2014 and $432,619 in 2010.
Atwater used the program to receive $418,396 in 2014 and $744,250 in 2010.