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Crist maintains huge lead in fundraising

His campaign's haul in a week is near those of three other gubernatorial candidates combined.

By ALEX LEARY and JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published August 19, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Charlie Crist's fundraising machine continued its record pace Friday, with the latest campaign finance records showing he raised nearly as much as the other three gubernatorial candidates combined.

Crist raised $158,000 in cash Aug. 5-11, compared with $22,000 for his Republican rival Tom Gallagher and $81,000 and $57,000, respectively, for Democrats Rod Smith and Jim Davis.

All have large sums remaining in their accounts except for Smith, whose bankroll dropped to $302,000. His campaign said, however, it had the means to maintain TV advertising through the Sept. 5 primary.

All told, Crist has raised $13-million. As of Friday's report, he had $4.5-million cash on hand. Gallagher has $2.4-million remaining.

The reporting period came as newspapers across Florida were speculating that Gallagher would drop out of the race, which may explain his poor performance.

He did not drop out, and his campaign said it has seen renewed vigor this week in fundraising. The campaign is also getting help from renowned GOP strategist Mike Murphy.

On the Democratic side, Smith has nearly wiped out his war chest, with $302,000 remaining. Davis has $2.35-million left. A television ad on hurricane insurance Davis launched this week will eat into a good part of that, however.

"From the beginning, our campaign has had a plan to manage our campaign's resources wisely," Davis spokesman Josh Earnest said. "That plan has paid off, and our campaign now has a significant $2-million advantage as we head into the final weeks."

Earnest noted that Smith's $81,000 figure for the Aug. 5-11 period includes $42,000 in state matching funds, suggesting the $24,000 advantage over Davis was misleading because Davis' matching funds, about $70,000, were not included in the report.

Smith spokesman David Kochman said the fundraising numbers do not reflect "three-pack" advertising paid for by the Democratic Party. The advertising focuses on Smith and makes scant mention of the two other candidates. Kochman said he expected Smith to maintain his advantage in the three-pack ads.

He added that the campaign has used such ads to target absentee voters. "They've gotten four or five pieces of communication from us. That's been mostly under the radar screen."

Davis' campaign has not sent mail to absentees, but says volunteers have been making calls.

Also Friday, the Department of State released the latest batch of matching money for candidates. Crist will get an additional $128,000; Gallagher, $12,000; Smith, $8,000. Davis did not get any. Earnest said a paperwork delay means the money will be received next week.

Times staff writers Joni James and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.