Special election first campaign financials are in

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Posted February 1, 2023 |

Candidates for the Florida House District Seat 24 special election on March 7 have turned in their first financial reports of the campaign. Of note is that three of the six Republican candidates for an office that pays approximately $30,000 a year for a two-year term reporting they wrote big checks to their campaigns: Charlie Stone, $50,000; Dr. Stephen Pyles, $60,000; and Ryan Chamberlin, $75,000.

The State of Florida’s Candidate & Treasurer’s Handbook says that the campaign treasurer must deposit all funds received by the end of the fifth business day into the campaign’s depository.

Upon request, Stone and Pyles provided deposit receipts showing they deposited funds from their personal accounts to their campaign accounts.

Chamberlin’s campaign, however, would not provide proof that it had deposited $75,000 from the candidate’s personal funds to his campaign account as he reported on Jan. 20.

Brett Doster, Chamberlin’s campaign manager and the brother of Chamberlin’s treasurer, Russell Doster, told the Gazette by text message that “proof” of the deposit was in the report they filed with the state.

“Lying about how much money you took in as a donation or loan carries big penalties, and I would not put Ryan or myself in that kind of jeopardy,” Doster wrote.

Of the remaining candidates, Justin Albright reported collecting $7,730.88, at least half of which is self-funded. Jose Juarez reported raising $31,850.

Leaving aside personal contributions, Stone has raised the most campaign funds from individual donors at $64,587. Notably, he received at least $8,000 in donations from entities related to the World Equestrian Center developers. Stone also received at least $9,000 from entities related to developer Bill Kearns.

These donations are noteworthy in part because his wife, Michelle Stone, is a Marion County commissioner whose vote impacts the fate of major development projects in the county. Commissioner Stone recently voted to approve a controversial WEC initiative in the county’s Farmland Preservation Area. Kearns is expected to bring future developments before the county commission for approval.

Chamberlin’s campaign sent out a media release on Jan. 30 claiming to be the leader in fundraising, based on his $75,000 personal contribution to his campaign. He has raised $55,520 in independent contributions, which includes at least $6,000 from family members of campaign consultant and his company Front Line Agency,   as “independent.”

Juarez, a political newcomer, pulled in at least $8,000 from donors based in Tallahassee. That is more than Stone, who previously served in Tallahassee as a House representative, and Chamberlin, even including donors related to his campaign manager.

Pyles did not report any independent donations in his first report, only the money he loaned.

Write-in candidate, Robert “Foxy” Fox, reported no contributions.

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