tampabay.com

Davis' fundraising lead grows

But Smith also posts an impressive quarterly total as the Democrats vie for a gubernatorial nomination.

By JONI JAMES
Published July 8, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis outdid his primary opponent in fundraising during the recently completed quarter, but not nearly enough to write off challenger Rod Smith.

With just over eight weeks until the September primary, roughly $400,000 in cash separates the campaign accounts of U.S. Rep. Davis and state Sen. Smith, according to the campaigns.

Davis has $2-million left to spend; Smith has $1.6-million.

"If you looked maybe three to four months ago, (Smith's performance) would have been a big surprise," said Darryl Paulson, a government professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

"But it's clear the Democrats are split over these two candidates, and Smith has really gained momentum," he said.

Nonetheless, Smith, with $560,000 in new cash, raised $90,000 less than Davis' $650,000.

Smith lost five weeks due to a ban on members' fundraising whenever the state Legislature is in session. But he also enjoyed lots of publicity in the weeks afterward for his work thwarting Gov. Jeb Bush's education agenda and winning the endorsements of U.S. Reps. Allen Boyd and Kendrick Meek.

Throughout the campaign, Smith has raised $2.5-million; Davis, $2.9-million.

Davis boasted Friday that his campaign raised more in the second quarter than any Democratic gubernatorial candidate in more than a decade.

Save for Davis, Smith could make the same claim. Bill McBride, the Tampa lawyer who was the Democrats' 2002 nominee, raised $534,997 in the second quarter of 2002.

But both Democrats' success is dwarfed by the state's Republican candidates, who have raised exponentially more. And at least one third-party political committee established to help Attorney General Charlie Crist boasts having $2-million to spend in the election.

Crist reported Thursday he had raised $1.7-million in the second quarter, bringing his total cash collected to $10.6-million. But he provided no number for how much cash he has left after a costly television advertising blitz.

Republican Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher has yet to release his second-quarter totals, which must be filed by Monday. Through the first quarter, he had raised a total of $6.7-million in cash.