By Frank DiFiore, The Daily Sun Staff Writer, July 24, 2022.
PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte County Commission incumbents continue to hold a commanding fundraising advantage over challengers.
Stephen R. Deutsch, representing District 4, has raised just over $86,000 as of July 15, according to campaign finance disclosure forms.
His District 2 colleague, Christopher George Constance, reported a total of $79,718 in campaign contributions for this election cycle.
Both men are running for re-election to the Charlotte County Commission; both men are also facing two challengers each in the Republican primary scheduled for Aug. 23.
Constance’s opponents — Jaha Cummings and David Kalin Jr. — both trail him heavily in terms of fundraising.
Cummings, serving as a city councilman in Punta Gorda, has raised just $10,525, including a $525 loan from himself to his own campaign. The rest of those contributions were raised from a series of $1,000 donations.
Donors to Cummings’ campaign include Punta Gorda businessman Bruce Laishley, as well as four real estate businesses out of Manatee County: Flagship National Property Group, Manatee River Associates LLC, MML II LLC and Rye Associates LLC.
Punta Gorda-based businesses, including Florida Lakes Inc. and Southwest Land Developers Inc., have also contributed to Cummings’ campaign.
Kalin has raised even less so far, standing at around $5,995 in total contributions; this includes $2,250 in loans from himself to his campaign.
Kalin, a flight attendant by trade, has also received $1,000 donations from his father, David Kalin Sr., and Punta Gorda resident Nancy Vrabel.
Constance, meanwhile, loaned approximately $30,000 to his own campaign in April. He has also received multiple donations of $1,000 from local and regional businesses.
Local donors include Bayshore Pathology Consultants LLC in Port Charlotte, as well as Port Charlotte residents Jeffrey and Debra Anlauf and the Punta Gorda-based Southwest Florida Engineering & Design Inc. and Waterside Recycling.
Further afield, Constance’s campaign has received $1,000 donations from Fort Myers-based LSI Companies, software entrepreneur Michael Gaines of Tampa, and Aesthetic Mobile Laser Services from Broward County.
Gaines also donated to Deutsch’s campaign, as did Waterside Recycling. Other $1,000 donors include Black Widow Harley-Davidson of Port Charlotte, Southwest Land Developers Inc. of Punta Gorda, and Kolter Payments LLC of Palm Beach County.
Deutsch’s opponents trail him at a similar rate; Tom Sullivan reported approximately $17,702 in campaign contributions as of July 15, while Mark “Gunny” Stevens reported just $5,800 in campaign contributions.
Both Sullivan — a retired journalist and part-time substitute teacher — and Stevens — a Marine veteran and hardware store worker — have largely self-funded their campaigns so far, with self-loans and self-donations making up the majority of the funding raised so far.
While all the candidates listed are running in the Republican primary, this year’s primary will be open to voters of all or no parties. The two candidates who win the nominations will go on to run unopposed in the general election.
Cummings entered the county race relatively recently, announcing his candidacy in late June. He told The Daily Sun at the time that he believes many local issues, such as housing and infrastructure, would be best tackled at the county level.
At a recent candidates’ forum, Stevens said that he wants to improve communication with the public; he specifically spoke about informing constituents about upcoming building projects and enabling them to speak out about them in a timely manner.
Sullivan and Kalin were recently endorsed by the Charlotte County chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian-leaning group that endorses candidates in Republican primaries; they were both also endorsed by the Charlotte County Trump Club.
Image Credits: Charlotte County Commissioners (https://www.charlottecountyfl.gov/commission-office/) Constance at far left, Deutsch at far right.