Crist wins another lap in fundraising race

But his cash-on-hand lead over Gallagher slips as the GOP pair wage the costliest gubernatorial primary in Florida history.

Published July 11, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Charlie Crist raised more money than Tom Gallagher for the fifth straight quarter in their race for the Republican nomination for governor, according to figures released by both candidates Monday.

Crist, the attorney general from St. Petersburg, raised $1.8-million in the latest three months to bring his total cash contributions to $10.6-million. Gallagher, the chief financial officer from Tallahassee, collected $1.1-million in the same period for a total of $7.8-million, the campaigns said.

The quarter ended June 30 with Crist having $1.3-million more cash on hand than Gallagher - the equivalent of a week's worth of statewide TV advertising. Crist had $7.8-million in the bank, compared with Gallagher's $6.5-million.

Gallagher remains competitive at fundraising even after weathering more critical news coverage about his 1979 divorce. Crist's cash-on-hand advantage also shrank because he spent well over $1-million on six weeks of television ads.

The candidates continue to stockpile money to pay for TV ads in July and August that will quickly raise the profile of the race to succeed Jeb Bush.

The fast-mounting millions establish this as far and away the most expensive primary race for governor in Florida history. By comparison, Bush had raised $5.6-million in cash by this time in his 2002 re-election campaign.

The Crist and Gallagher totals do not include in-kind donations - the cash value of food, beverages and campaign workers whose salaries are paid largely by the Republican Party of Florida.

Both Republicans, like their Democratic opponents, also will soon get another big infusion of campaign money, courtesy of Florida taxpayers, under a program of partial public financing of elections. Candidates are eligible for state subsidies that match personal donations from Florida residents.

Candidates for three other statewide offices also filed fundraising reports Monday.

In the race for chief financial officer, Democrat Alex Sink nearly doubled her fundraising total in the past three months and raised more money than any of the 10 other candidates for three Cabinet seats.

Sink, the former president of NationsBank in Florida, collected $508,000 to bring her total to $1.24-million and has $1.1-million on hand.

In the Republican primary for CFO, Senate President Tom Lee of Valrico raised $298,000 in the quarter and has $1.4-million cash on hand. Lee has raised $1.64-million, more than any other Cabinet candidate.

Rep. Randy Johnson of Celebration raised $118,000 and has $613,000 on hand.

In the race for a second open Cabinet seat, for attorney general, Republican Bill McCollum raised $426,000 for a total of $926,000. He has nearly $663,000 on hand.

State Rep. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, raised just $48,000 in the quarter, but still has $1.2-million in the bank. Negron was barred from collecting campaign funds until the legislative session ended, about five weeks into the quarter, and his influence as House budget chairman waned as the session ended.

A third Republican, Rep. Everett Rice of Indian Shores, dropped out of the attorney general's race Monday.

The Democratic candidate, Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale, also hampered by the session fundraising ban, raised $238,000 for a total of $803,000, and has $618,000 on hand.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson raised $212,000 and has $720,000 on hand. Democratic rival Eric Copeland raised $2,130 and has $11,000 on hand.

Copeland has loaned his campaign $117,000.

Details on candidates' contributions can be found on the state Division of Elections Web site, at www.dos.state.fl.us.

Steve Bousquet is at 850 224-7263 or bousquet@sptimes.com.