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THOMPSON NOT GETTING LOTS OF FLA. CASH

The senator-turned-actor still hasn't formally joined the Republican presidential race.

Likely Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson may be attracting interest among Florida voters, but so far he's not bringing in loads of Florida money.

Newly filed disclosure reports show that of the $3.46-million the actor and former Tennessee senator raised nationally in June, $150,000 came from Florida, making it his sixth-biggest donor state.

In a major fundraising state like Florida, where many top-tier Republican fundraisers have remained on the sidelines, Thompson's Florida haul may not greatly impress party activists trying to gauge his viability. His supporters initially predicted Thompson would raise at least $5-million nationally in his first month as a potential candidate.

Fort Lauderdale lobbyist Justin Sayfie, who raised more than $200,000 for Bush-Cheney in 2004 and is undecided this year, said Thompson's fundraising can't be directly compared to Republicans who are already in the race.

"He'd fall short by those standards, but by the standards of someone who is still in the exploratory phase of his campaign, those numbers are pretty good," said Sayfie, a former Jeb Bush aide. "From my perspective it's too early to give a grade because there hasn't been a campaign yet."

Thompson is expected to announce his candidacy in September, but his "Friends of Fred Thompson" exploratory committee filed its June fundraising report with the IRS on Tuesday. Nearly 9,200 donated to the campaign across the country, including 149 in Florida.

Those donors included grass roots Republicans and a range of Republican politicos, from former state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd of Plant City to former Pinellas legislators Jack Latvala, Curt Kiser and R.Z. "Sandy" Safley.

Like many Republicans, Ruskin retiree Preston Beebe looked at the field of announced candidates and saw nobody who interested him much. So when Thompson start testing the waters, Beebe sent him $500.

"I wanted to give him a chance," said Beebe, a Navy veteran. "He's the only viable candidate on the list. Look at who else you got running. Who else meets his stature? None of them are any good."

Though Thompson held a Pensacola fundraiser in July with U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, the latest fundraising report reflected only two actual events across the country in June and none in Florida.

"Our expectations were to raise enough money to test the waters, and that has happened," said Linda Rozett, a spokeswoman for Thompson.

Florida "is near and dear to our hearts," she said, noting that he has attracted lots of support from the state and that the national campaign's political director is longtime Florida GOP strategist Randy Enwright of Tallahassee.

Recent polls show that even without fully entering the race, Thompson is in second place behind Rudy Giuliani among Florida Republican voters.

Computer-assisted reporting specialist Constance Humburg contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8241.

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