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Millions flow into race

Gubernatorial candidates released their latest fundraising estimates, and Attorney General Charlie Crist leads the pack.

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published October 6, 2005


Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher announced Thursday that he'd added another $1.4-million to his campaign account in the three months ending Sept. 30, while Democratic candidates Jim Davis and Rod Smith took in less than a quarter of that.

It's the second fundraising period in a row in which Gallagher, the chief financial officer renowned for his fundraising ability has lagged behind his rival for the Republican nomination, Attorney General Charlie Crist, who said Saturday he raised $1.5-million in the same period.

Republicans, though, are operating in an entirely different universe than the Democratic contenders for governor. State Sen. Smith of Alachua announced Thursday that he'd raised $322,000 in the same period and officials for U.S. Rep. Davis of Tampa said he had raised about the same. Scott Maddox, the former state Democratic chairman, declined to release fundraising estimates Thursday.

Davis is leading in polls among Democratic voters, but the latest finance estimates highlight the difficulty he's had solidifying his frontrunner status and pulling away from Smith.

"I don't think this is indicative of any change," said Davis campaign spokeswoman Danae Jones. "We still are building a statewide campaign, we're still ahead in the polls, we've raised more money overall and at the end of the day we'll have more money."

Derek Newton, a Democratic campaign consultant unconnected to any of the candidates, noted that the Democrats are essentially raising comparable amounts of money, just as the Republicans are. The vast difference is between the Republicans and Democrats.

"It makes a huge difference," Newton said. "It costs about $1-million a week for TV (campaign ads statewide). If the Democrats are taking a year to get to $1-million and the Republicans do it in six weeks, they're going to be able to have a lot more TV at this time next year."

In the Republican primary, Gallagher allies had long predicted he would pull in much more money than Crist. When Crist outraised him $3.8-million to $3-million in the first fundraising period, Gallagher backers questioned whether Crist could keep up the fundraising pace the way Gallagher could.

"To us it's not important where the other guy is. It's important where we are and what our internal goals are. ... We're very happy," Gallagher campaign spokesman Alberto Martinez said Thursday.

The latest fundraising estimates are preliminary, as detailed fundraising reports are not due until Oct. 10. Donors can give up to $500 to the campaigns, but the new estimates do not include the unlimited "soft money" donations the candidates may have raised for the state parties. The parties in turn pay for many campaign expenses.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727893-8241 or adam@sptimes.com