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South Florida candidates run into obstacles while campaigning during coronavirus pandemic

Money struggles hampering campaigns
Guido Weiss, Laura Loomer, Christian Acosta
Posted at 3:44 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 18:27:40-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.  — Those running for public office during the coronavirus pandemic are having their own financial issues.

College professor Christian Acosta wants to be the Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in District 21, which represents a large portion of Palm Beach County. The seat is currently held by Rep. Lois Frankel.

“Meeting people is the number one thing that’s suffering,” said Acosta.

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In the past month, Acosta lost chances to meet voters at community festivals that were all canceled. Also, he had to cancel three fundraisers.

“Dollars don’t vote, people do. But you do need money to get your message out there,” said Acosta.

Money is harder to come by.

Contact 5 investigated recent campaign finance reports of candidates running for four area Congressional districts that represent Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

From January to March, this year, 16 candidates raised $1.56 million. Compare that to the same period for these districts in 2018, when 13 candidates raised $2.29 million. Taken as a whole, candidates including four incumbents raised 32 percent less.

“In order to run for public office, a candidate shouldn’t have to go bankrupt,” said Guido Weiss, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in District 21.

Weiss is among 40 congressional candidates in Florida asking the governor to waive or reduce the $10,440 qualifying fee for those who missed the late March deadline to get the 4,700 petition signatures needed to get on the ballot.

Weiss launched his petition drive when his volunteers could not safely go door-to-door.

“Our signature campaign ended before it even started -- March 1,” said Weiss.

“I made the decision to cancel my petition drive,” said Laura Loomer, a Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in District 21.

Loomer, a South Palm Beach resident, already paid the $10,440 qualifying fee.

Her campaign raised more money than any of her opponents, despite coronavirus challenges.

“This is a campaign, and you have to adapt,” said Loomer. “The rules are the rules, and they should remain intact.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis has not said if he will or even can waive or reduce the qualifying fees.

In the meantime, candidates for Congress fear they will struggle to raise money or meet voters with a primary election in just four months.