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    Democrats lag in money race

    Democrats are lining up to oust Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002, but their party is behind the Republicans in campaign contributions.

    By LUCY MORGAN

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 30, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's Democrats have a bumper crop of candidates running in the 2002 race for governor, but they are behind in fundraising for a battle that is expected to attract national attention.

    With Democrats still angry over the extremely close 2000 presidential election, Gov. Jeb Bush's 2002 re-election battle is expected to set the stage for his brother's 2004 re-election fight.

    Bush is not likely to draw a Republican opponent, but Democrats are lining up to take him on. Out on the trail surveying campaign possibilities are former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson, Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami, and Bill McBride, former managing partner at Holland & Knight.

    In addition to the governor's race, voters will choose all 160 legislators and a smaller, more powerful state Cabinet. Legislators will be fighting a battle for the control of the House and Senate in a year when all of their districts are redrawn to comply with population increases over the past decade.

    In reports filed this month with the Florida Division of Elections, the Florida Republican Party reported receiving contributions totaling $2.9-million during the three-month period ending June 30. During the same period, Democrats raised $737,000.

    For the entire year, Republicans have raised $6.1-million, compared with $2.3-million raised by Democrats.

    Democrat Party Chairman Bob Poe had predicted his party would raise at least $750,000 at a single fundraiser in Miami last month, but the party's financial statement indicates it failed to collect that much during the entire quarter.

    "We're not worried," Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welch said when asked about the substantial difference. "We think we are going to have a really good effort."

    Welch said money pledged during the party's June fundraiser is still coming in, but he estimated it will total about $700,000.

    Republicans raised about $2.5-million with a single fundraiser in June thanks to the presence of Vice President Dick Cheney and other party luminaries.

    With Republicans in control of the governor's mansion and the Legislature, the majority of the money that traditionally comes from Florida's business community appears to be pouring into GOP coffers.

    "We will raise whatever it takes to combat the negative attacks of the Democrats and their allies," said David Johnson, executive director of the Florida Republican Party. "They have the unions and others helping them out. We'll do whatever we have to do."

    Johnson said the party has thus far raised money with events such as the dinner Cheney attended in Orlando, direct mail and telemarketing solicitations.

    Officials from both parties declined to be specific about how much money they expect to raise for the 2002 campaigns lest they divulge any strategy, but everyone agrees the total is likely to top anything in past elections.

    In 2000, without the governor's race on the ballot, the money raised by the two parties was nearly equal. Republicans raised more than $31.5-million while Democrats raised $30.8-million.

    Johnson said Republicans have been able to attract a lot of small donations from Floridians who are pleased with the party and the governor.

    "We don't think the Democrats have been as successful because they haven't offered positive ideas," Johnson said. "We have a good record for the governor to campaign on."

    The largest single Republican contribution during the past three months was $583,750 from the National Republican Senatorial Campaign fund in Washington, D.C.

    Many of the corporations that do business in Florida and make regular contributions to political campaigns gave money to both parties, but several sent most of their money to the Republicans.

    Even Holland & Knight, the state's biggest law firm, gave $25,000 to the Republicans and $10,000 to the Democrats despite the fact that McBride, the firm's former managing partner, is a Democratic candidate for governor.

    McBride said he was unaware of the contributions, made while he was still running the firm, and did not realize the firm gave more to Republicans.

    Florida's Professional Firefighters gave $44,000 to Republicans and $17,500 to Democrats while the Police Benevolent Association limited its contributions to $30,000 for the Democrats and nothing for the Republicans. Teacher unions also restricted their donations to the Democrats, as did the AFL-CIO and other unions.

    Campaign cash
    The Florida Republican Party is far ahead of the state's Democrats in overall fundraising this election cycle. Here are some of the larger contributions for each party.
    Republican Party
    Amount Donor
    $96,000 H. Gary Morse (Lady Lake developer)
    $50,000 A. Duda & Sons (agriculture)
    $50,000 Lockheed Martin Inc.
    $45,871 Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign
    $40,000 Lawrence DeGeorge (Jupiter financier)
    $35,000 Steel Hector & Davis (law firm)
    $53,000 Disney corporations
    $50,000 Sprint-Florida Inc.
    $39,000 TECO Energy Co.
    $37,500 Wackenhut Corp.
    $30,000 Publix
    $30,000 JM Family Enterprises (owners, Southeast Toyota)
    Democratic Party
    Amount Donor
    $35,000 Sprint
    $31,500 AT&T
    $30,000 Florida Police Benevolent Association
    $27,500 TECO Energy
    $20,000 Bell South
    $20,000 Vitas Healthcare of Miami
    $12,500 Gulfstream Park

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    From the Times state desk