A Million Here, a Million There for Legislative Candidates

By: Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida
By: Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida


Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

When Florida senators gather after the November elections, perhaps the wealthiest man in the Legislature could lead a chamber dotted with millionaires.

Newly filed campaign documents show that 21 Senate candidates this year have net worths of more than $1 million ---with 13 of the candidates topping $3 million. Incoming President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who made a large chunk of his fortune in the health-care industry, far outdistanced all other Senate candidates with a reported net worth of nearly $24.9 million.

Across the fourth floor of the Capitol, 45 House candidates have net worths above $1 million, according to the reports. The only House candidate in Gaetz's financial ballpark is former Rep. Carl Domino, a Jupiter investor who is trying to make a comeback to the House and reported a net worth of about $24.3 million.

The number of millionaires running this year is only a portion of the overall number of candidates. In the Senate, for example, 98 candidates qualified last week to run in the 40 districts.

Also, net worths, which compare assets with liabilities, vary widely. Some candidates even have negative net worths, with the reports pointing to issues such as people owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

But the numbers also show that many lawmakers have net worths that far exceed those of typical families. A Federal Reserve study released Monday showed that the median net worth of American families in 2010 was $77,300, down from $126,400 in 2007.

In all, 38 Senate candidates listed net worths of more than $500,000, while 86 House candidates were above that level. Candidates have to file financial-disclosure reports as part of qualifying to run for office, with some candidates using their end-of-year 2011 data to calculate net worths and some using more-recent information.

Along with Gaetz and Domino, five legislative candidates listed net worths of more than $9 million. They were incumbent Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, with $15,089,066; Senate candidate William McBride, R-Orlando, with $12,534,093; Senate candidate Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, with $12,270,951; Senate candidate Jeff Brandes, who is currently a Republican House member from St. Petersburg, with $10,354,868; and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, with $9,677,988.

The millionaires also range from some of the most-prominent members of the Legislature to Tallahassee newcomers. For instance, Republican Senators John Thrasher and Jack Latvala, who are widely viewed as competing to become Senate president in 2016, reported net worths of $6,582,648 and $5,682,221, respectively.

After McBride and Simpson, the next-wealthiest newcomer is House candidate Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, who reported a net worth of $6,689,629.

The reports show candidates making their money in numerous ways, with investments in real estate and businesses common. Two of the wealthier House members, Republicans Dennis Baxley of Ocala and Ken Roberson of Port Charlotte each have net worths topping $5 million --- and each are in the funeral-home business.

Digging through the reports also gives a glimpse of business ties between lawmakers. For example, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who listed a net worth of $267,943, reported that he had received $36,204 in income from Simpson Environmental Services --- a Trilby firm headed by Senate candidate Simpson.

Perhaps closer to home, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, reported owing $50,000 to his father and $76,604 to his mother and father. With a net worth of $964,499, Matt Gaetz is not quite at the same financial level as his father, the incoming Senate president.

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  • by truth on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:34 PM
    wow according to the tea party republicans America is broke, so where is all these millions coming from?????
  • by Mark on Jun 12, 2012 at 03:52 PM
    All politicians are crooks. Don't fool yourself.
  • by selectivelyoutoftouch on Jun 12, 2012 at 09:43 AM
    Take heed of these millionaires who don't have to worry about where the money for the car repair or the air conditioning repair bill will come from since you are a state worker who has not had a raise in over 6 years and the raise that you got 8 years ago was just taken away to be put in the general fund for the governor to give away to his cronies. They have no grasp and don't want to have a grasp on the working mans struggle to make ends meet lets vote them all out.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:02 PM in reply to selectivelyoutoftouch
      For one, you are not entitled to a raise every year. Two, you did not lose any money. What we has was a reduction in benefits(similar to a loss of pay) but There is a difference. Politicians have a responsibility to ALL Floridians, not just State Workers. Instead of complaining find a way to move into a better paying position. There are opportunities for good workers.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:13 PM in reply to
        Yes we did lose money 3% to be exact and that was unconsitutional. All workers should be entitlted to a raise at least once every year or if times are hard at least once every 3 years. Just think of how much the cost of everything has gone up in the last 6 years. And, what oppotunities are you talking about? Are you a state worker or a tea bagger.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2012 at 04:21 AM in reply to
        Oh please DO tell us where the opportunities are. Thousands are still out looking for jobs and Scott is still 500,000 or more behind on his promise to create jobs. Politicians have failed their responsibilities to ALL my whole 60 years of living in this state.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:10 PM in reply to selectivelyoutoftouch
      Amen. Good post.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 08:44 AM
    How about all of these 'contributors' give a million here or there for children, the elderly, the underpaid workers with NO healthcare benefits, increase hiring in the companies they run? Why do we always have millions and billions for political slush funds in BOTH parties and very little still gets done to help the electorate these people are supposed to be working for? Fellow voters - it`s up to us to shop this and not elect those with the largest campaign accounts and make them accountable to us, not those who pay for their election(s). We can no longer afford the best government private money can buy.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 09:33 AM in reply to
      It seems like you have several misconceptions. One, It's their money and they can spend however they want. Second, how do you know they don't already give generously to the causes you mention(although there is no requirement). Third, it is up to the voters to decide how to vote. Candidates are not allowed to "buy" your vote. They spend money on a campaign, and if voters can't decide correctly it is not the candidate's fault. The candidate that spends the most often wins, but not always.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:16 PM in reply to
        Same post basically as th eone at 3:02. One, I am sure you spend your money on just yourself. Second, do you give generously of yourself as well as monitarily to others in need. Third, which candidate might you be?
      • reply
        by truth on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:35 PM in reply to
        wow you really are a tea party republican tea bagger puppet, i believe you are over the edge, the 12 step program cannot help you now!!!!
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 08:06 PM in reply to truth
          Truth, love your comment. It is the truth, the puppet can not be helped, too far gone.
  • by Insider Location: Leon County on Jun 12, 2012 at 08:06 AM
    This reminds me of Leon County's Sheriff Larry Campbell! Look at all of the deputies recently receiving promotions, and the look at his list of donors. See any similarities. See a sign in a yard. Then it is probably someone who works for the Sheriff's Department. Employees of any office should be prohibited from contributing to the campaign for that office, as well as putting up signs, or campaigning. Then there is no chance that you are supporting your boss for fear of loosing your job. If my job were at risk. I would campaign for my boss too. At least votes are private. I will be letting my boss know just how I feel this election cycle.
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