S. Donald Sussman, a wealthy hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and mega-political donor, has dramatically shaken up a contest for the Florida House of Representatives in northeast Broward.
Sussman gave a $200,000 contribution to support the campaign of Emma Collum, the Democratic candidate in the northeast Broward 93rd District state House of Representatives race. Sussman, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, and lives in the district.
The contribution is so-called soft money, because it is too large to go to a Collum’s state House campaign account.
Just how significant is $200,000? Collum described it as providing “some jet fuel” to help her candidacy.
Through June 22, the most recent reports filed with the state Divison of Elections show she’s raised $101,000 in cash and another $3,000 of in-kind donations of goods and services.
Chip LaMarca, the Republican running for the same seat had raised $262,000 in cash and $10,300 of in-kind contributions.
Kelly Milam, a no party affiliation/independent candidate raised $2,200 in cash and in-kind donations.
Collum, a lawyer who was active in organizing the Women’s March on Washington the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, said her position in favor of gun safety legislation got her on Sussman’s radar. “After a really pleasant conversation, he said ‘I want to bridge the gap’” she faced financially.
“I’ve been running this race as a grassroots candidate. I always knew it would be very challenging for me to outraise a Republican candidate,” she said. “I always knew we were in the running.”
Collum said she hopes it shows others that her campaign “is a very viable candidacy.”
It could also serve as an incentive for Republicans, for whom winning the election is a high priority.
The 93d District is currently represented by state Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, who can’t run again because of term limits. It is the only district in the Florida Legislature held by a Republican living in Broward County.
LaMarca, currently a county commissioner, decided not to seek re-election so he could run for the House seat.
The district includes all or parts of Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Lighthouse Point, Pompano Beach and Wilton Manors.
The district’s voters are 36 percent Republican, 35 percent Democratic and 29 percent no party affiliation/independent.
Sussman is the founder of the founder of Paloma Funds and New China Capital Management. He’s also a philanthropist and is on the boards of Carnegie Hall and the news organization ProPublica.
Sussman is also a major contributor to Democrats. Forbes reported he was one of the top 20 donors to Hillary Clinton’s super political action committee. The Washington Post reported in October 2016 that Sussman had given a total of 21 million to the top super PAC supporting Clinton, putting him “on track to be the Democratic nominee’s biggest political backer” of her 2016 campaign.
He also contributed $250,000 to the Patriot Majority PAC, which spent $640,000 on behalf of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, when she faced a 2016 primary challenge from Tim Canvoa.
In December 2015, Sussman bought a home on Harborage Isle Drive in Fort Lauderdale for $27.5 million, which set a price record in Broward County. A week after the closing, he paid $8.3 million for the home next door and said he planned to tear down the property and build a sculpture garden.
By Anthony Man