TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis has built a national political brand. Need proof? Just look at his political committee’s more than $4 million July haul.
DeSantis, who has not yet formally declared his 2022 reelection bid, last month brought in political contributions from every state in the country and several United States territories as well as from members of the military serving overseas, according to campaign finance records. DeSantis’ nearly 400-page July campaign finance report represents a massive expansion of DeSantis’ fundraising footprint, driven by his increased use of email to solicit contributions.
The recent support is fueled, in part, by DeSantis’ hands-off response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s become an issue the GOP governor has used in email fundraising pitches to conservatives across the country as Florida has becomes the national epicenter for the virus’ reemergence, including 134,506 new cases last week and near daily breaking of Covid-related hospitalization records.
His committee’s July report lists 18,201 individual contributions, a staggering amount for a state-level politician, that represent 63 percent of all contributions his committee has received since it opened in Jan. 2018. Overall, DeSantis’ committee brought in $4.3 million last month, and has more than $40 million in the bank — a sizable advantage over his Democratic challengers.
The haul speaks to DeSantis’ popularity nationwide, and positions him well if he chooses to run for president in 2024. He’s already held multiple fundraisers across the country and has made moves to raise his profile outside of Florida, including a recent visit to the U.S. border with Mexico in Texas.
DeSantis has been a prolific fundraiser in recent months but has generally relied on traditional donors who give bigger sums, so the influx of more than 17,000 mostly online contributions of $100 or less is a noticeable shift. Prior to July, DeSantis’ average individual contribution was more than $8,000. But last month that number was $233.
“People around the country are tired of government lockdown politics, illegal immigration, and big government eroding our individual freedoms,” said Nick Iarossi, a Republican lobbyist and longtime DeSantis adviser. “Governor DeSantis is the tip of the spear in the fight against these Biden administration politics and a warrior for individual freedom.”
“That is resonating with voters and donors all across the country,” he added.
DeSantis has started holding fundraisers in other states, including California, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and recently traveled to Utah and Colorado for national conservative events, which generally have a fundraising component. His largest individual donor last month was Bradenton insurance executive Steve Herrig, who gave $250,000 to the committee. DeSantis brought in a total of 10 six-figure checks in July, including form Utah-based Nomi Health, which in 2021 has received $50 million in state contracts for Covid-19 testing and vaccine work, POLITICO reported last week.
Not only did his committee get contributions from supporters in all 50 states, but he received small donor contributions from residents of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and military members stationed in both the Pacific and Atlantic corridors, which is a distinction specified in campaign finance records.
DeSantis’ fundraising expansion comes as he continues to endure withering criticisms from Democrats and public health experts over his response to the Delta variant-driven spike of Covid-19 cases in Florida. Not only are cases increasing, but on Monday Florida had 13,614 Covid hospitalizations, which is 134 percent of the previous peak in July 2020, according to the Florida Hospital Association. The group says the statewide average of inpatients with Covid-19 is nearly 30 percent.
Democrats, parents and health care professionals have denounced governor’s resistance to Covid restrictions, including most recently administrative action to try and prevent mask mandates in classrooms, and his Department of Health’s decision to no longer report daily Covid-19 data publicly.
“Our communities are operating blindly,” Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running against DeSantis, said Tuesday. “Without accurate, reliable and timely information, Our families can’t make the best decisions to keep their children safe as they head back to school.”
DeSantis has brushed off his critics. His committee uses both his administration’s pandemic response and President Joe Biden as frequent topics in the sort of fundraising emails that attract small dollar political contributions.
“Governor DeSantis isn’t looking to a presidential administration devoid of leadership for guidance on how to handle COVID,” read a fundraising email sent Friday. “Instead, he is going to continue following the science and making data-driven decisions.”