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Politics

Both know what it's like to run from behind

The Republican candidate for House District 54 was the underdog in his primary.

By PAUL SWIDER
Published October 31, 2006


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Jim Frishe was outgunned in the Republican primary for state House District 54.

His opponent, Rod Jones, raised $210,000 to Frishe's $66,000. But Frishe quietly crunched political data and targeted voters for personal visits, and he won in an upset.

Now, it is Frishe who's the big dog, having raised five times the money of his opponent in the Nov. 7 general election, Democrat Betsy Valentine.

Frishe said he's not taking Valentine lightly.

Valentine said she is working long hours pursuing an upset in the heavily Republican beaches district.

"We're sneaking up on him," Valentine said.

Replied Frishe: "I don't know that she isn't."

Frishe has asked for help from his party and other supportive groups but said they "snickered" and said he was "not seen as endangered." But because he has won from behind, he knows better than to be complacent.

"There's only two ways to run for office," he said. "Unopposed, or scared."

While Frishe played the pauper during the primary campaign, he is now wrapping up the contribution market, having raised a total of $111,000, including what he raised during the primary.

As he sat in his home recently talking about having run from behind his whole life, a visitor from the Florida Petroleum Council stopped by with praise of Frishe's past House service - and a check from ConocoPhillips.

"I've never been a good fundraiser," Frishe said. "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

Frishe first went to Tallahassee in 1984 after winning in District 57, which then had a majority of registered Democrats. He was outspent then, and again in 1990 when he lost as an incumbent. He knows this election is not a lock.

Frishe said he was impressed by Valentine's organization, which qualified her for the ballot by petition before Frishe could do the same. He said he doesn't buy Valentine's professed distaste for contributions, but he knows she's got the numbers to beat him on the street.

"Her formal organization, that she can call to a meeting, may be bigger than mine," he said.

Valentine said her dislike for fundraising is the real difference between her and Frishe, who touts his pro-business record. She said she's been told she could get contributions from political action committees, but she refuses to ask. When she tackles issues on property taxes or insurance or the environment, Valentine said, she doesn't want to be beholden to anyone.

"To raise hundreds of thousands of dollars is obscene," she said.

Valentine has raised $22,400, mostly from inside the district. The majority of contributions to her are for less than $100. More than half of Frishe's contributions come from outside, including dozens of $500 checks from PACs in Tallahassee. He's gotten lots of money from Tampa through his half brother, Andrew Graham, a corporate lawyer.

Frishe is happy to have the recognition and the money, but he is still out in the district meeting and greeting.

"You can do a lot with money," he said, "but it's not nearly as effective as door to door."

Paul Swider can be reached at pswider@sptimes.com or 727 892-2271.

[Last modified October 31, 2006, 01:31:27]


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