Fundraising down in race for governor
By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Just a few months ago it seemed certain that Florida's 2002 governor's race would eclipse all prior state campaigns in spending and fundraising. After all, it looked like a great grudge match for Democrats livid about a "stolen" presidential election to take on the president's brother in the recount state.
But anyone who needed another example of how Sept. 11 changed the political landscape should consider the latest gubernatorial fundraising reports.
By Dec. 31, the leading fundraiser among the Democrats, Tampa lawyer Bill McBride, had raised nearly $1-million less than Democrat Buddy MacKay had at this point in the 1998 governor's race. Gov. Jeb Bush raised $1.3-million less than he had four years ago.
"We'll spend less money and raise less money than we probably would have otherwise," said state GOP chairman Al Cardenas.
Still, Bush holds a better than 2-to-1 advantage over his opponents, despite all but giving up on fundraising since the terrorist attacks.
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, the best known Democratic candidate, raised $455,000 in the three months, and threw in $100,000 of her own money. She still trails McBride in money raised, but outperformed him in the last quarter of the year.
The other Democratic candidates, state Rep. Lois Frankel of Palm Beach and state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami, have raised less than $130,000 each so far.
Bush stopped all fundraising events until mid December, but still collected more than $751,000 in the last three months of 2001. To date, he has received more than $2-million toward his re-election campaign and spent nearly $174,000. Money raised after Dec. 31 was not included in these reports.
Among the Democrats, McBride's initially strong fundraising pace dropped off to nearly $233,000 in the past three months. That brings his total to nearly $745,000, compared with nearly $657,000 by Reno.
But McBride, the former head of Florida's biggest law firm, Holland & Knight, needs to spend a lot more money than Reno because most Floridians have never heard of him. Reno already has the kind of name recognition that would cost millions of dollars in advertising.
"We're on target and where we wanted to be by the end of the year, knowing that the next six months are very critical to our fundraising," said Robin Rorapaugh, McBride's campaign manager.
All the candidates said they cut back on fundraising after Sept. 11, and some of them will be at a fundraising disadvantage when the Legislature begins its session Jan. 22. As lawmakers, Frankel and Jones are forbidden from raising money while the Legislature meets.
Reno and McBride will continue raising money during the legislative session, which could drag on longer than usual because of redistricting.
"The momentum that Janet shows in this period shows that she really is going to be the only viable candidate," said Mo Elleithee, Reno's campaign manager.
He said Reno loaned the campaign $100,000 when fundraising stopped after Sept. 11, but that she will likely get back at least $75,000.
Jones said his meager fundraising totals do nothing to dim his commitment to the race.
"I believe we'll be able to raise quite a lot of money after the session," he said. "Daryl Jones will be on the ballot as a gubernatorial candidate in September, no ifs, ands or buts."
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times state desk
From the state wire