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State insurance chief's campaign pot brimming

State Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher has quietly raised almost $500,000 to run for the state's chief finance officer in 2002.

The position was approved by voters in 1998 as part of a plan to reorganize the state Cabinet. It combines the duties currently shared by Gallagher and Comptroller Bob Milligan.

The new Cabinet will also include an attorney general and the state agriculture commissioner. Attorney General Bob Butterworth is unable to seek re-election because of term limits.

In addition to Gallagher, a Florida A&M student from Fort Lauderdale who has been active in protests against Gov. Jeb Bush during the past year has filed the paperwork to become a candidate. Corey Alston, a Democrat, filed the papers to run in April but did not file a campaign finance report by the July 10 deadline, according to records at the Division of Elections. He could not be reached for comment.

Gallagher, traveling in Chile with the governor and others on a trade mission, could not be reached Monday.

Gallagher has already served in two Cabinet positions: education commissioner and insurance commissioner. He was insurance commissioner from 1989 to 1995 and was elected to the office again in November 2000. In between, he served as education commissioner for a two-year period and launched campaigns for governor and the U.S. Senate.

A skilled fundraiser who has a good track record in statewide races, Gallagher has raised most of the $497,594 he reported receiving last week from insurance agents, financial service providers and other businesses that will be subject to regulation by the new Cabinet office. He opened his campaign account May 4.

Finance chairman David Browning said Gallagher is not accepting more than $100 from any insurance company subject to regulation under current law.