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Money keeps flowing for Crist campaign

Gov. Charlie Crist's fundraising for his U.S. Senate campaign has slowed to a breakneck pace.

After a record-setting debut of $4.3 million, Crist collected $2.4 million in the past three months, his campaign announced Thursday. That's more than any other nonincumbent Senate candidate across the country raised during that time, according to the national Republican Party.

The Crist campaign did not disclose how much of its latest haul is reserved for the general election and can't be used against his major Republican rival, Marco Rubio, in the primary. The former House speaker collected nearly $1 million in the past three months, more than doubling his previous fundraising run but leaving him far behind the governor.

The names of the latest donors to state and federal candidates aren't available to the public yet, but the totals provide snapshots of the horse races in the 2010 campaign. The leading Republican candidate for governor, Bill McCollum, has been trying to put a positive spin in recent days on his second-place finish behind Democratic front-runner Alex Sink, who collected $1.6 million. McCollum raised less than $1 million in cash.

"The Democrats do have true competitors for the first time in a long time," said Republican political consultant Brett Doster. "It's certainly better to be on top than it is to be behind, but it's not a significant advantage yet."

Still, McCollum's campaign hasn't dissuaded Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland from seriously considering joining the race herself. Dockery said she would make a decision this month and pointed to a statewide following from her fierce opposition to a proposed high-speed commuter train.

"People want drastic change, and they seem to have selected me as the agent for change," she said.

Though McCollum is lagging behind Sink in money, the Republican Party of Florida outraised the Democrats, $4 million to $2.5 million, in the past three months.

"That's very significant because it's very fungible money that can be spent on different races," said Palm Beach Republican Party chairman Sid Dinerstein. "The Democrats have all their eggs in one basket with Alex Sink."

The Democratic Party has yet to field a major candidate for chief financial officer, and its candidates for other statewide posts face well-financed Republican rivals: Senate President Jeff Atwater said he has more than $1 million for his chief financial officer bid, while U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow is approaching the same milestone for agriculture commissioner.

The Republican Party of Florida plans to announce today its "Victory 2010'' campaign account, which will be led by finance chairman Allan Bense, the former House speaker. Some Republican donors have expressed concern about spending by the state chairman, Jim Greer, but a party spokeswoman said the victory account is an election-year tradition.

"The fact that we raised more than $4 million is evidence that donors are satisfied with how the chairman is running the party," said spokeswoman Katie Gordon.

Money keeps flowing for Crist campaign 10/08/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2009 10:48am]
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