According to State of Florida campaign records, Perry Thurston’s State Senate campaign spends most of its money on Perry Thurston and his family members. Facing term limits in the Florida House, Thurston has been running for the District 31 Senate seat since 2013. Thurston is running against fellow Democrat Fl. Rep. Gwyndolen “Gwyn” Clarke-Reed.
According to the Florida Department of Elections, since January 2013, Thurston has raised nearly $55,000 for his State Senate campaign. Not surprisingly, as the minority leader of the Florida House, most of Thurston’s campaign contributions came from special interest groups and political action committees. As of August 2015, the Thurston campaign has spent $26,156.37 of his contributions.
The records show the overwhelming majority of the money was paid to Thurston and his wife Dawn. Since 2013, the campaign has paid $6,923.04 to Dawn Thurston. The campaign stated the expenditures were made for “canvassing,” “meals,” “campaign supplies,” “campaign expences [sic],” and “campaign expendatures [sic].” Since March 2015, Mrs. Thurston has received $5,071.61 from her husband’s campaign.
Campaign records show multiple payments to Perry Thurston, Floyd Thurston and Frances Merricks. In April 2013, this reporter exposed Perry Thurston’s residency games involving Frances Merricks’ Fort Lauderdale home. Thurston claimed to be living with a convicted felon in Merricks’ small home, rather than with his wife and children in the two-story home he owns in Plantation, in order to meet elected officials’ residency requirements in the Florida Constitution.
The Florida Constitution requires state legislators to live in the districts they represent. Thurston, a lawyer, represented House District 94. Broward County Property Appraiser records show Thurston, the Democratic Minority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives, owns a two-story home with Dawn Thurston in Plantation which lies in Florida House District 99.
Thurston’s 2012 campaign treasurer’s reports show he paid Frances Merricks $4,770 for “campaign headquarters rent.” Thurston’s 2012 campaign headquarters was located at a Fort Lauderdale liquor store owned by Frances Merricks and Floyd Thurston.
Records show Thurston spent $6,165.74 on “other distributions.” Most of the expenses covered gas purchases and meals.
In stark contrast, Clarke-Reed has raised just $1,465 since joining the race in June. This amount includes a $1,000 loan to the campaign by Clarke-Reed. The rest of her contributions are small donations made by local supporters.