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Candidate courts hometown supporters

By BILL VARIAN
Published September 24, 2003

TAMPA - Republican House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, who has been hitting up state lobbyists for cash in his bid for U.S. Senate, turned to some of his oldest hometown supporters for help Tuesday.

Federal campaign finance law forbids contributions from corporations. Byrd said it's crucial that his friends reach out to their friends to keep the money flowing.

"The important thing is for each of you to expand your horizons," Byrd said. Byrd was addressing a crowd of just under 40 prominent local Republicans during a luncheon fundraiser at the exclusive Tampa Club downtown Tuesday. He was introduced by Rick Michaels, a prominent GOP fundraiser and CEO of Communications Equity Associates in Tampa.

The audience included several other regular Republican fundraisers and activists, such as Lorena Jaeb, Dick Beard and Dick Mandt. State Rep. Sandra Murman, former state Rep. Chris Hart IV and Hillsborough sheriff candidate David Gee also attended.

Honing his Republican primary pitch, Byrd lashed out at Democrat Bob Graham, the presidential hopeful whose Senate seat he is seeking, for failing to support the war in Iraq.

"That certainly kicked me into gear," Byrd said. "We've got a Florida senator who's out of step with Florida's families."

Byrd said he suspects Graham is tuning his rhetoric to combat the unexpected upsurge of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and failing to even catch up in the polls with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

As he has in other campaign stops, he said the Senate should approve the president's judicial appointments. He said voters can judge the five Republican Senate candidates' loyalty to the president by how faithful they have been to his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush.

His thoughts on the latest Republican to enter the GOP race for senator, Larry Klayman: "I don't know him."

Byrd campaign aides declined to disclose how much he raised during Tuesday's event. He has said he wants to raise at least $300,000 by Sept. 30, the end of the next reporting period.

[Last modified September 24, 2003, 01:34:33]


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