Pilon drops out of County Commission District 1 race

He cites lack of financial support as the reason

Ray Pilon. Image from his Facebook page

Former Florida House member and past Sarasota County Commissioner Ray Pilon has announced his withdrawal from the 2024 District 1 County Commission race.

In an Aug. 27 letter that he sent to Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner, Pilon wrote that the action would be effective as of Sept. 1.

Pilon made the announcement on his Facebook page on Sept. 3, noting that he was ending his campaign “with a heavy heart.” He added, “Thank you all. I am very grateful for the confidence you had in my effort.”

During a Sept. 5 telephone interview with The Sarasota News Leader, Pilon explained that the only reason he had decided to pull out of the race was a financial one. Having run campaigns in the past, he continued, he knows that “it takes funds … to get a message out.”

This time, he said, he had not been receiving the level of financial support he needed.

Without mentioning District 1 challenger Teresa Mast by name, Pilon alluded to the amount of money that the construction company owner and former county Planning Commission member had raised since she filed for the District 1 race on Jan. 3. It was very difficult for him to compete with that, he told the News Leader.

As the News Leader reported in late July, Mast had raised $194,800 through the end of June; she had spent only $7,576.36. Much of her money has come from developers and attorneys and owners of businesses who serve as agents for developers, and many of those contributions were the maximum amount allowed by law: $1,000.

In announcing his Jan. 5 filing for the race, Pilon wrote in part, “Time to reign in our Growth Mania.”

Because of a change in state law that went into effect in July, as the News Leader also has noted, no more monthly campaign finance reports are required of candidates in 2024 races until the beginning of the 2024 election year. Two quarterly updates will be necessary only; the first of those will be due on Oct. 10. The second will cover the last quarter of this year, though it will not be available until early January. That was the information that Taylor Mansfield, the administrative and election operations coordinator on Supervisor of Elections Turner’s staff, explained to the News Leader last month. He referred to the language in Senate Bill 7050, which won approval of the Legislature this year and was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Therefore, the News Leader has been unable to learn how much more money Mast may have added to her total since June.

Teresa Mast. Image from her campaign website

In conjunction with ending his campaign, Pilon filed a final finance report on Sept. 4 with the Supervisor of Elections Office. That form shows his total contributions added up to $9,055. He had spent $2,063.91.

The only money he had received since June was $35, which his wife had provided as an in-kind contribution for Constant Contact campaign email announcements.

Pilon did repay himself the $1,000 loan he had made to the campaign. His only other expenses since June were $99 for monthly maintenance of his campaign website, which he has taken down, and $44.95 for domain name hosting.

With Pilon’s withdrawal from the race, Mast’s only competition is Les Nichols, a property manager, who had raised $5,550 through June and had spent $2,216.70, as shown in his reports to the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Pilon, Mast and Nichols all entered the District 1 race as Republicans. No Democrat had filed for the seat as of midday on Sept. 5, based on a News Leaderreview of the Supervisor of Elections Office records.

Republican Commissioner Michael Moran, who has held the District 1 seat since November 2016, is term-limited.

Pilon also told the News Leader that he wanted to emphasize his appreciation for all of the support and good wishes he had received since he filed for the seat.