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Rivals differ on where to get cash

In a GOP primary, one candidate gets his from inside District 50, while his opponent gets hers from outside.

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published August 25, 2006


CLEARWATER - You can tell a lot about a candidate's support and popularity from where he or she gets money, said Tony DiMatteo, president of the Pinellas County Republican Party.

In the House District 50 race, that's one area where GOP candidates Ed Hooper and Nancy Riley differ.

Much of Hooper's money has come from within the district, which includes the cities of Clearwater, Largo and Safety Harbor. As for Riley, much of her money has originated from outside.

Hooper points to that support base as a reason he should be chosen in the Sept. 5 primary.

"When you write someone a check, you believe in their ideas and what they believe in," said Hooper, a retired Clearwater firefighter and former Clearwater City Council member. "It's no fun asking anybody for money. I'd rather do anything but ask people for money.

"It's easy to ask a Political Action Committee fund in Tallahassee, but your friend and neighbor? It says something about you as a person, not only as a candidate, when they say yes."

Riley, a Realtor, said the fact she's able to reach out across the state with her fundraising efforts is an indication of her wide-ranging support.

"I am going to be the legislator for the state," Riley said. "I am the business candidate, and I have good Republicans around the state supporting me."

According to figures the two have submitted to Florida's Election Commission, Hooper has raised $79,365.09 as of Aug. 11. Of that amount, $55,601 comes from contributors in Pinellas County. As for Riley, campaign finance reports for the same period show she has received $114,164.72. Of that amount, about $42,000 has originated from Pinellas County.

Riley, however, points out that some of her donors are groups from the county but have checks issued from places such as Orlando and Tallahassee.

The most a person or entity can give any one candidate is $500. Many of Hooper's top donors are firefighter organizations. Many of Riley's are Realtor groups.

"People are going to support people who they know," said DiMatteo. "Expect Realtors to support Riley and the firefighters to support Hooper."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com