It takes loads of money to win a statewide campaign in Florida, and George LeMieux is proving himself a formidable money-raiser in the crowded Republican U.S. Senate primary.
LeMieux, who served 16 months in the U.S. Senate, reported raising more than $950,000 over the past three months.
That's not nearly as much as the $2.6 million raised by Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos in his debut fundraising quarter earlier this year — and Haridopolos added another $900,000 since April — but considerably more than the $560,000 raised last quarter by former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who had been known as one of the most prolific money-raisers in the Legislature.
"George is working tirelessly to build a campaign that will defeat liberal Bill Nelson and help elect our Republican ticket in the fall," said campaign manager Brian Seitchik. "No one in this race will outwork George LeMieux."
The actual financial reports are not available, so details of the latest donors are unclear. Haridopolos enjoys a big fundraising advantage because he has control over any legislation coming through the state Senate, while LeMieux is expected to benefit from the connections he made in Washington after former Gov. Charlie Crist named him to fill the unexpired term of Mel Martinez.
"We always expected the two establishment opponents to start off raising more money than us, because that's what the establishment does," Hasner said. "But we'll ultimately win this race because of our positive conservative principles and a growing grass roots movement that's looking for leaders who'll stand up to Democrats and Republicans who act like them."
Until the actual reports are released, candidates can play sleight of hand with their fundraising totals. For instance, one third of the $2.6 million Haridopolos raised through March actually can't be spent until the general election because it came from donors who gave more than the $2,500 maximum allowed for the primary.
Neither LeMieux's campaign nor Haridopolos' would say how much of their money is restricted for the general election, but the Hasner campaign boasted almost all of his money can be spent in the primary.
Fundraising totals have not been released by Democratic incumbent Nelson, or a fourth Republican in the race, Col. Mike McCalister of Plant City. A fifth Republican candidate, businessman Craig Miller of Winter Park, is scheduled to kick off his campaign today.
Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.