We're still more than a year out from next year's race for governor and other key down ballot races — such as that of House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon of Winter Park — but the region's deep corporate pockets are already putting their checkbooks where their mouths are.
The recession may have scaled back the number of zeros on some checks, but the usual suspects are still busy on the campaign trail, with the bulk of dollars from big local companies going to the Republican Party of Florida, which has controlled the governor's mansion and the Legislature since 1999.
Walt Disney World, for example, has given nearly $110,000 so far to candidates as well as the committees and state parties supporting them.
In March, the company hosted a fundraiser for Adam Putnam, the Republican congressman from Bartow who is running for commissioner of agriculture against Lake County Republican state Sen. Carey Baker. Scott Maddox, the former leader of the state Democratic Party and ex-mayor of Tallahassee, is the Democratic candidate.
Putnam's campaign records show he took in $39,000 the day of the fundraiser, including $500 checks (the maximum contribution allowed to a candidate from an individual or company) from a number of Disney executives, including President Meg Crofton.
Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger described the company as an "early supporter" of Putnam.
When it comes to the governor's race, most businesses are hedging their bets by giving to both Republican Bill McCollum and Democrat Alex Sink, each their party's presumed nominee.
Sink, the state's chief financial officer and a former Bank of America executive, is benefiting from her reputation as a business-friendly Democrat and is leading McCollum, the state attorney general, in the overall money race by nearly $2 million.
Fred Leonhardt, a Republican fundraiser and chairman of law firm Gray Robinson's policy-setting committee, said he suspects for that reason that the race between McCollum and Sink will be close.
"They are two really good candidates, either of whom are fully capable of doing a really good job as governor," he said.
Disney has not officially taken a position in the governor's race.
"Both candidates are well qualified and have strong backgrounds in supporting business," Finger said.
So far Disney has given $500 to Sink and $5,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Disney has not yet contributed directly to McCollum, but has given more than $78,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.
Universal Orlando — through its companies and Universal City Development Partners — has given more than $130,000 toward 2010 races, including $118,000 in meals, rooms and tickets to the Republican Party for an event in February and $1,000 to McCollum. Universal also gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party and $500 to Sink.
Law firm Akerman Senterfitt has given more than $41,000 to a long list of candidates, including McCollum and Cannon as well as $25,000 to the Republican Party. The firm gave just $5,000 to Democrats.
Other big players include state-regulated utilities Progress Energy (more than $99,000 total, including $70,000 to the Republican Party) and Florida Power & Light (more than $215,000 total, including $120,000 to the GOP).
Gray Robinson has given more than $22,000 so far to next year's candidates as well as committees and parties with just $1,500 going to Democrats.
International Speedway Corp. has given more than $19,000, including $11,638 in goods and services to the Democrats and $5,000 to the Republicans, and $500 to McCollum. ISC Chairman Jim France and his wife have each given $500 to McCollum.
Darden Restaurants, Orlando's only Fortune 500 company with a large local employment base, has given $35,000 to the Republican Party and $500 each to Cannon and Putnam through it's subsidiary GMRI Inc. The company gave $2,500 to the Democratic Party. Chief Executive Officer Clarence Otis and several other Darden executives wrote $500 checks to Cannon in June.
Beth Kassab can be reached at 407-420-5448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at orlandosentinel.com/thebottomline.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun