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McCollum closes fundraising gap with Sink

TALLAHASSEE — Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum continues to close the financial gap with Alex Sink in Florida's gubernatorial race, but the Democratic chief financial officer still holds a large cash advantage.

McCollum brought in nearly $1.4 million in the first three months of 2010, the highest of any state office candidate. That leaves him with $3.8 million to spend. Over the same period, Sink brought in $1.1 million. She has a little more than $5 million in her campaign coffers.

Sink brushed off concerns that McCollum was cutting into her financial lead: "I'm still $1 million ahead of him in cash in the bank, and that's the number that really matters."

Republicans say McCollum will have plenty of cash to get his message to voters. "They're running a very smart, methodical operation on all fronts," GOP political consultant Rick Wilson said.

Lakeland Sen. Paula Dockery raised $287,000 in her primary challenge to McCollum. She has about $410,000 on hand, including $280,000 of her own cash.

While lawmakers are banned from fundraising during the session, political parties are free to raise huge sums. And Florida's two largest parties combined to rake in more than $10 million so far this year.

The Republican Party brought in $7.8 million in the first quarter, though that number is propped up by about $1 million that legislative leaders had originally pulled out of the party during the uproar earlier this year over former chairman Jim Greer. Democrats raised $2.7 million.

With the governor's race and all three Cabinet seats changing hands, candidates are scrambling for cash in a crowded field. Nowhere is that trend more pronounced than the campaign for attorney general.

In the GOP primary, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp raised $232,000 in the first three months of 2010 and has $515,000 on hand. Former Hillsborough County prosecutor Pam Bondi, who entered the race in December, raised $222,000 and has $371,000 on hand.

A third Republican candidate, former Rep. Holly Benson of Pensacola, pulled in $182,000 and has $313,000 to spend.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres raised $259,000, with $704,000 on hand. His primary opponent, Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, raised $218,000 and has $587,000 to spend.

Fundraising totals also show Republicans increasing their financial advantage in open races for chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

Senate President Jeff Atwater, a Republican, raised $446,000 this quarter in the race for CFO and has just less than $2 million on hand. His Democratic challenger, former Rep. Loranne Ausley, has $346,000 to spend. Atwater's GOP primary opponent, Rep. Pat Patterson, of DeLand, raised just $3,751 this quarter.

U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam raised $277,000 in his bid to be agriculture commissioner, giving him $1.2 million on hand. He is unopposed in the primary. Of four Democrats vying, former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox holds the financial edge with $130,000 raised in the first quarter and $314,000 left to spend.

Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

McCollum closes fundraising gap with Sink 04/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 9:00pm]
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