Talk about a head start.
The Republican candidate for the state Senate race in District 22 has raised more than 40 times as much money as his Democratic challenger.
The Republican is Don Sullivan, 58, an orthopedic surgeon from Seminole. The Democrat is Dee Billings, 52, who works for Humana Health Care Plans in Tampa.
According to the latest financial reports, Sullivan, the incumbent, has $127,442 to spend on his campaign. So far, he has spent about one-third of it on advertisements, postage, mailing labels and consulting fees.
Billings has raised $3,180. She has spent two-thirds of it on such things as T-shirts for supporters and mailing labels. Billings paid a photographer $30 for a photo session and transferred $35 from her campaign account to the campaign account of Doug Jamerson, the Democratic secretary of education.
Joan Brock, with the county supervisor of elections office, said giving money to another candidate from your campaign account is not a violation of the law "as long as the money is not given in exchange for a promise."
Billings, 52, said Thursday that she never intended to match Sullivan's bank balance.
"That's one of the points of my campaign," Billings said. "You shouldn't have to have a lot of money to run for office. We don't need only rich people in Tallahassee. We need people from all walks of life."
According to Billings' report, most of the money she has received so far came from the Democratic Party. The Florida Democratic Party paid her filing fee of $1,743.30, according to the report. Other substantial contributions are $500 from a machinery company in Tampa, $300 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and $100 each from a friend in Dunedin and a cousin, Cheryl Knapp.
Knapp was an unsuccessful candidate in 1992 for U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis' congressional seat.
Sullivan's bank roll comes from a number of sources. Medical organizations, including the Florida League of Hospitals, Health Care Leadership, Florida Optometric Association, St. Joseph's Hospital Physicians Associates, the Florida Hospital Association, and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association contributed $500 each.
Other major contributors include the Florida Home Builders, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, Calder Race Course, and the Florida Phosphate Industry.
Sullivan said his list of contributors proves his performance in Tallahassee these past two years has the approval of a broad spectrum.
Some of the leftover money from his campaign will go to charity, he promised.
"We've been looking around the district for some worthwhile causes," Sullivan said.