Three candidates vying for one seat in the state Senate from
Florida’s ocean-side District 34 have tipped the scales in terms of campaign
fundraising to date, and political pundits are scurrying to connect the dots.
Among trial lawyer Gary Farmer, former
state Rep. Jim Waldman and current state Rep. Gwyndolen “Gwyn” Clarke-Reed, the combined coffers topped $900,000 in
campaign finance filings as of
early May, with Clarke-Reed tallying $17,700, and Farmer and Waldman both surpassing
the $470,000 mark.
Apart from setting a new record in total district campaign
fundraising in Florida, the trend raises the question of whether money really
"I have been the candidate with less money before,
and I won," Clarke-Reed said earlier this year. "I may not have the
most money but I use what I have very wisely."
Florida Atlantic University political
science professor Kevin Wagner took Clarke-Reed’s logic with a grain of salt.
“I can tell you that fundraising success does not always
mean electoral success, but they are usually correlated,” Wagner told the Florida Record. “By that I mean that the
candidates (who) raise the most money do tend to win, though there are plenty of
First-time contender Farmer readily voiced his
perspective from District 34, comprising Broward County, Deerfield Beach and
Hollywood along the Atlantic Coast. While acknowledging that fundraising is an
absolute necessity for him as a new candidate —providing him with a “megaphone”
— he nonetheless conveyed a sense of responsibility regarding the general implications
of disproportionate fundraising.
“I remain very concerned by the
explosion of money in politics at every level,” Farmer told the Florida Record. “The current system
mandates that successful clients raise large amounts of money, and I must work
within that system, but we need reform.”
When it comes to effective communication, he said, “Nothing compares to old fashioned door-knocking and
Farmer rose from humble roots and
knows from bootstraps efforts. His father was a high school dropout who served
in Korea, then toiled as a janitor to pay his way through law school as young
Gary observed. When he came of age, Gary Farmer took those experiences to
experience as a child watching my dad work so hard at night school, then
sitting in his law school classes and helping clean … taught me the value of
hard work and the satisfaction that comes from working hard to chase a dream,” Farmer said. “My dad later became a judge and served
for 20 years, (showing) me the importance of public service.”
Farmer was quick to put the subject of currency in perspective,
emphasizing his candidacy’s grass-roots nature.
“Money plays a role in getting my
message out, but actively seeking our community’s input on various issues and
listening to their concerns are what makes our campaign work,” he said, adding
that he would not be swayed by lobbyists or special interest funds. “The larger
goal is to address issues that affect this district … whether the root cause of
poverty problems in South Florida, deficient public education funding, gun
safety legislation or protecting a woman’s right to choose.”
Wagner also remains unconvinced that the equation
remains simple in a pivotal election year that has already sparked a highly charged
“I'm not sure that having three candidates by itself
means that the race will be expensive,” Wagner, who directs the Jack
Miller Forum for Civics Education
Dorothy F. Schmidt College of
Arts & Letters in Boca Raton, said. “But, this election environment
is difficult. With the presidential race dominating the media, candidates … (will) likely need significant resources to get their message out.”
How directly proportional the campaign breadbaskets will
prove to ultimate success in this race remains to be seen. With the election
slated for August 30, it’s still anybody’s guess whether political victory depends
on money or the message it supports.