Gallagher trails field in race for funds

His staff says it's not a major issue, but speculation grows on whether he will stay in the gubernatorial race.

Published August 5, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Already lagging in the polls and facing possible ethics violations, Republican Tom Gallagher suffered another setback Friday, finishing dead last in fundraising among the four candidates for governor.

Gallagher's $45,740 in so-called hard dollars raised during July trailed fellow Republican Charlie Crist by nearly $290,000 and leading Democrat Jim Davis by about $150,000. Democrat Rod Smith raised twice as much as Gallagher.

Friday's news raised fresh speculation among Republican insiders about whether one of Florida's longest serving politicians will drop out of his fourth and likely last run for governor.

Gallagher, the state's chief financial officer, is trailing by double digits in polls and last week the state Ethics Commission found probable cause that he violated state law when he bought stock in four companies that either had state contracts or were regulated by his office. A hearing will be scheduled in the weeks ahead.

Gallagher's campaign spokesman, Albert Martinez, dismissed the grim numbers as secondary.

"This campaign is not longer about who raised what," he said. "This campaign is all about the issues. We've got the resources necessary to let voters know Tom Gallagher is the only conservative on the right side of the issues Republicans care about."

Tom Slade, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a Gallagher supporter, was somewhat less upbeat.

"Tom Gallagher is without a doubt the best candidate to be the governor of Florida, but that doesn't mean he's the most electable," he said. "Charlie Crist is one of the best politicians I've ever seen. When Charlie Crist makes a mistake, he laughs and everyone laughs with him."

Slade said an internal poll to be conducted this weekend will likely dictate Gallagher's next move.

Mike Hanna, who runs a third-party political committee supporting Gallagher, emphasized that Gallagher has other ways of raising money. Hanna's committee generated $1-million for Gallagher in July.

But Crist has plenty of support. During July, he raised $335,000 in hard money, and collected $1.8-million in matching funds from the state. Gallagher got $1.3-million in matching funds.

State law allows candidates to qualify for publicly financed matching dollars for every dollar they collect from Floridians who contribute less than $250. The matching contribution was the first of several distributions of public money to the candidates and was calculated based upon what they had raised since late last year.

Hard money is cash contributed directly to the candidate from individuals in sums up to $500.

On the Democratic side, front-runner Jim Davis' total for July was $1.3-million, including about $932,000 in matching funds and $195,000 in hard dollars.

"With only one month to go, Davis has seized the momentum," his campaign boasted Friday in a news release. Davis raised twice as many hard dollars as Smith and has nearly twice as much money in the bank, $3-million. (Crist, by contrast, has $7.8-million on hand; Gallagher, $3.64-million.)

But overall, Smith collected $1.2-million in July, the bulk of it matching funds. Spokesman David Kochman noted the figures do not include a glossy mailer and a TV commercial paid for by the Florida Democratic Party.

"They are trying to claim a financial advantage over us but if you look at the results, we're the only campaign that's had the resources to begin mass communicating," Kochman said. "That takes up the bulk of any campaign budget."

Smith already has aired two television ads; Davis' first will be seen Tuesday.