October 22, 2021

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Unprecedented numbers of Florida women donating to presidential candidates

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(MARCO BELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

From foreign policy to law and order, healthcare to the economy, abortion access to minority rights ⁠— their reasons are varied and differences in opinions many, but across party lines Florida has seen a surge in the number of women contributing to candidates this election cycle.

Around 14,800 women in the state contributed to either President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign or Joe Biden’s campaign through individual itemized contributions, the highest number in the most recent five presidential cycles and almost double the number who chipped in in 2016.

Contributions are itemized or disclosed, along with donors’ identifying information, to the FEC once someone contributes more than $200 to a candidate.

Biden raised money from roughly 8,000 Florida women — a 55 percent increase from the number who contributed to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of women who made campaign donations in favor of President Trump nearly doubled, from 3,300 in 2016 to 6,700 this year.

In terms of amounts raised, the $7.8 million women contributed to the Biden campaign narrowly edged out President Trump’s $7.4 million.

The findings come from a Miami Herald analysis of campaign finance data compiled and collated by the Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan research organization Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. To identify the gender of a donor, CRP used an algorithm to compare the donor’s name to a dataset of the most popular names for a specific gender reported to the Census Bureau.

The data accounts for donations reported to the FEC through Oct. 14, 2020. It excludes donors with an aggregate total of under $200 and filings for small donors reported by the online platforms ActBlue and WinRed.

“It was an easy decision to open up our pocketbooks and donate to President Donald Trump and his campaign,” said Deborah Tamargo, president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women and former GOP chairwoman of Hillsborough County.

“We want to return him to the White House to continue and bring us back the prosperity that we lost during the pandemic,” she said.

“He delivered on his promises. Women, we look at things like report cards and we also like people that keep their promises.”

On the Democratic side, Barbara Zdravecky, CEO of Ruth’s List, a non-profit organization and political action committee that backs Democratic pro-choice women candidates, said that women “have been silently suffering for almost four years under this regime.”

“They want to be involved. They want to participate. They want to have their voice heard, express their outrage,” she said.

“When he [Trump] speaks with such misogynistic remarks and belittles people, it’s very easy to see why women have escalated their giving.”

Sen. Kamala Harris’ nomination as Biden’s vice presidential candidate also encouraged women because they “finally saw an opportunity to break the glass ceiling,” Zdravecky said. 

The death of RBG

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in September and the subsequent confirmation of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett last week, coupled with that of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, has put the spotlight on the possibility of the landmark case guaranteeing access to abortion services, Roe v. Wade, being overturned, deepening the fault line between Democrats and Republicans.

The FFRW’s Tamargo said that the fear of it being overturned is just a way for Democrats to malign Republicans.

“That’s the difference between Republicans and Democrats: We expect a justice to be fair and impartial on the law and unfortunately Democrats want them to rule on ideology, which is not the role of a justice,” she said.

She is not a legislator and does not have an agenda, Tamargo said of Justice Barrett.

Democrats fear otherwise.

In Florida in particular, Zdravecky said, Republican legislators have gradually chipped away at reproductive rights by requiring that minors secure parental permission to get an abortion, proposing that abortions be banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy and repeatedly attempting to defund Planned Parenthood.

“We know our rights are definitely at risk with this Supreme Court, and certainly in Florida our candidates are the dividing line between us losing reproductive rights in the state,” she said.

“If Roe v. Wade goes down nationally, it is going to be the state legislatures that hold the line against that to permeate through our state constitutions. We need to have a lot of pro-choice candidates sitting in those seats.”

FEC records show that among those who made itemized contributions, more women support Democratic candidates over their Republican counterparts in Florida’s congressional races. Roughly 6,700 women contributed $7.3 million to Democratic campaigns compared to the $5.4 million contributed by 4,300 women supporting GOP candidates.

Democrats received contributions from more women than Republicans did in three of the four competitive congressional races:

▪ In the 13th Congressional District, in Pinellas County, nearly a fifth of the itemized contributions going to Republican challenger Anna Paulina Luna and Democratic incumbent Charlie Crist came from women. Crist raised more money than Luna — roughly 226 women gave his campaign $412,000 compared to 174 women who contributed $186,000 to Luna.

​▪ Itemized contributions from women make up for 30 percent of the $1.4 million raised by the Democratic and Republican candidates in the race for the 15th District, spanning parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. Women’s support for Democrat Alan Cohn however towers over that for Scott Franklin of the GOP ⁠— Cohn raised around $310,000 from 336 women while Scott received roughly $122,000 from 86 women.

▪ Women contributed to around 40 percent of the $3.4 million raised in the 16th District, encompassing parts of Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Nearly 950 women gave Democratic challenger Margaret Good $970,000 — nearly half her funds — while 166 women contributed $444,000 to the campaign of incumbent Republican Vernon Buchanan.

​▪ In the 26th District, covering Monroe and parts of Miami-Dade counties, little more than a third of the $5.5 million raised by the Republican and Democratic candidates were given by women. Democratic incumbent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell raised $1.6 million from 1,300 women while GOP challenger Carlos Gimenez received $414,000 from 139 women.

When it comes to flipping seats, women donors seem to overwhelmingly favor a Democratic challenger over a Republican one. While Democrats and Republicans are neck-and-neck at $1.9 million each when it comes to amounts raised by challengers, around 2,200 women made itemized contributions to a Democratic challenger to a Republican seat, double the number who made contributions to a GOP candidate looking to beat a Democratic incumbent.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to flip some legislative seats in Florida,” Zdravecky said.

“We have candidates who are proven, passionate activists who can definitely look at increasing the quality of life for Floridians with employment and healthcare and education opportunities that have been overlooked by a lot of our seated current Republican legislators.”

The great divide

The gulf between Democrats and Republicans is apparent in how they view the Trump administration’s policies.

For both Esther Nuhfer, who has fundraised for several Florida GOP politicians for more than a decade, and Tamargo, law and order is another important reason why they think President Trump’s support from Florida’s women has surged.

“Women have children and they want their children to be safe and I believe that they feel that with Donald Trump they are more secure rather than with Biden, particularly with all of the stuff that has been going on with the rioting and talks of defunding the police,” Nuhfer said.

She said that many of the donors she has spoken to, especially in Miami-Dade, are afraid that the police force will be weakened.

For many women and people belonging to minority communities, a second term for President Trump is almost an existential threat, Zdravecky said, pointing to the Black Lives Matter protests, the fight for reproductive and LGBTQ rights and the outrage over migrant children being separated from their parents at the border.

“The sensibilities of Americans who are proud and happy to help their fellow man have been totally blown up with the Trump administration’s actions,” she said.

“Trump’s character has really produced a surge in support for the candidates who are concerned with social welfare and healthcare issues, education and those who are financially struggling.”

When it comes to the economy, Tamargo and Nuhfer both believe that President Trump brought unprecedented stability and prosperity ⁠— something which, in their opinion, a Biden administration won’t be able to maintain ⁠— and that is one of the reasons why so many women wrote checks to his reelection campaign.

“Democrats in general are more about big government and less business,” said Tamargo. “Lots of parents are afraid to leave nothing to their children. They want to ensure that the economy is stable.”

While it is true that the economy boomed under the Trump administration, he inherited one of the strongest job markets in American history from President Barack Obama. When Obama became president, he had to deal with the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008.

Critics, including Biden, claim that the Trump administration’s bungled response to COVID-19 is partly to blame for the economic downturn that followed.

Zdravecky said that President Trump has created a “huge disaster in America” and it was unfortunate that Gov. Ron DeSantis is following his path in Florida.

Nuhfer however argued that the “coronavirus was coming no matter what anybody says” and that it was unfair to criticize the president because “this is something no one knows how to handle.”

Around 9 million people have tested positive for the virus in the United States so far and around 229,000 have died ⁠— a fifth of the total COVID-19 deaths in the world.

This story was reported in collaboration with the Miami Herald.

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics.
For permission to reprint for commercial uses, such as textbooks, contact the Center: [email protected]

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