By Jim McCarthy and Mandy Miles
Campaign signs are popping up everywhere and glossy postcards are filling mailboxes.
In the race to represent District 120 in the Florida House of Representatives, two Republican candidates, including the incumbent, are leading the fundraising efforts.
With more than $201,000 in his campaign coffers, Republican State Rep. Jim Mooney, who is seeking reelection to his second term as state representative for the Keys and a portion of south Miami-Dade County, has outraised all other candidates, including Republican challenger Rhonda Rebman Lopez, who has brought in $85,000 since entering the race in April. Mooney’s fundraising efforts, however, began in November 2021, according to state election documents.
Campaign finance records show monetary contributions totaling just over $138,000 since last September for Mooney. He secured the Republican nod following a slim victory in the 2020 primary and a win over Democrat Clint Barras in the 2020 general election.
Since April, Mooney’s campaign has received close to $100,000 in contributions thanks to two Florida Republican groups. The Florida House Republican Campaign Committee poured $56,000 into Mooney’s campaign in April. And close to $41,000 was given to his campaign by the Republican Party of Florida since May.
The Florida House Republican Committee has spent more than $255,000 dating back to last fall on various campaigns through direct donations, mailers and advertisements. The Republican Party of Florida has expended more than $10 million since last fall.
Mooney’s campaign has also received contributions from local businesses including Wahoo’s, Robbie’s Marine Enterprises, Theater of the Sea and The Caribbean Resort, all in Islamorada.
Mooney has the backing of Republican leadership in the House, with endorsements from Paul Renner, Florida House speaker for 2022; Rep. Danny Perez, of Miami, who’s in line to be speaker in 2024 should he be re-elected to office; and Rep. Sam Garrison, of Clay County, who’s in line for speaker in 2026 should he be re-elected.
“Certainly, having the speaker of the house and house Republican leadership behind me says a lot,” he said. “That means a lot to me and it should mean a lot to the people of the district who understand that politics are not cut and dry.”
Mooney paid $1,781.82 in order to qualify and appear on the ballot for the Aug. 23 primary.
Republican challenger Rhonda Rebman Lopez, who finished second to Mooney by 148 votes in a three-way race in the 2020 primary, has secured $85,520 in campaign contributions since April. Rebman Lopez has received a number of donations from Key Largo residents, as well as businesses like United Nursery LLC in Homestead, Concrete Construction in Key Largo and Ocean Reef Dive Shop.
Citing the need for active leadership in District 120, she announced her candidacy on April 1. So far, Rebman Lopez’s campaign has spent $32,558. She’s director of international marketing for PECO International, a 67-year-old family business in Miami-Dade County. In January, she was appointed to the Florida Advisory Council on Small and Minority Business Development.
Rebman Lopez’s platform includes supporting parental rights when it comes to education, ensuring funds for Monroe and southern Dade counties, safeguarding the Second Amendment and defending Florida’s agriculture industry, among others.
“I’m the hardest worker, the most visible, the easiest to get in touch with and have the most tenacity and energy,” Rebman Lopez told the Weekly earlier in the month. “I will represent the entire House district.”
Rebman Lopez’s campaign has received 82 campaign contributions from individuals and groups since May. Rebman Lopez secured enough signed petitions to qualify for the race.
Rebman Lopez has secured an endorsement from the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida. She said she continues to listen to the district’s needs and intends on delivering on those needs if elected.
Big Pine Key resident Robert Allen threw his name into the hat for state representative on the Republican side last December. To date, he’s secured two campaign contributions totaling $150. He hasn’t spent anything so far. He paid the qualifying fee to enter the race.
On June 28, a letter from the state Division of Elections was sent to Allen stating that he did not file a campaign treasurer’s report nor give notification stating that no reportable activity occurred by the June 24 filing date.
According to the division of elections, if reportable activity occurs and a report isn’t filed, fines are automatically assessed until the report is filed. Fines are $50 per day for the first three days late and $500 per day for each day after the third day late. If no reportable activity occurred, no automatic fines are assessed. A letter is required, however, stating that no reportable activity occurred.
On the Democrat side, anti-corruption attorney Adam Gentle, who lives on Big Coppitt Key with his husband, leads Daniel Horton-Diaz in fundraising. As of Wednesday, June 29, Gentle had raised $77,284 since he entered the race in January. Horton-Diaz, an attorney and former staffer in the Florida Senate and U.S. House, has raised $55,835, including $16,000 that he loaned his campaign.
Horton-Diaz’s financial support has come mostly from individual donors, including several people from throughout the Florida Keys, Homestead and Miami. He also has received $1,000 donations from the Communications Workers of America union and a painters union.
He also received $1,000 from Dream Bay Resort wedding venue and vacation rentals in Key Largo.
Gentle, who has become a familiar face at Key West events, has raised $77,284 since joining the race in January. Most of his support also comes from individuals, including $1,000 checks from Key West residents, business owners and retirees, including $1,000 donations from John Spottswood, Chris Massicotte, Matthew Helmerich, Jeffrey Smead, Charles Morris, Carolyn Burruss and William Burruss. Gentle also has received support from his home state of Michigan, as well as New York, Miami and Washington, DC.
Key West Mayor Teri Johnston has endorsed Gentle for state representative, saying, “Adam Gentle is the leader we need fighting for us in Tallahassee. As an anti-corruption attorney, he is ready to take on Tallahassee’s special interests and put our community first.”
Gentle also received an endorsement from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to get members of the LGBTQ community elected to public office. If elected, Gentle will be just the eighth openly gay lawmaker to serve in the Florida Legislature and the fourth currently serving, states a March article in FloridaPolitics.com.
Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represented the Florida Keys, has been guiding Gentle through some of the political process and said, “I think he would be the best person to represent the district.”
Horton-Diaz, who formerly worked as Mucarsel-Powell’s district chief of staff in the Keys, has received the endorsement of Key West city commissioners Sam Kaufman, Clayton Lopez and Jimmy Weekley, according to his campaign website. He’s also been endorsed by former Monroe County Commissioner Shirley Freeman, as well as the Miami Dade Young Democrats and Florida Young Democrats.
Filed Jan. 5, 2022
Contributions – 55,835.01
Loans – $16,000
InKind – $1,120
Expenditures – $20,032
Filed Jan. 4, 2022
Contributions – $77,284
Loans – $0
InKind – $4,492
Expenditures – $25,412
Filed Nov. 18, 2020
Rhonda Rebman Lopez
Filed April 1, 2022
Filed Dec. 21, 2021