New campaign finance reports in an East Hillsborough state House race show indications of a concerted effort by the Republican House leadership team of Speaker Richard Corcoran to boost candidate Lawrence McClure.
Those records show maximum $1,000 contributions from political allies, clients, employees and committees associated with Corcoran's brother, lobbyist Mike Corcoran, as well as Reps. Carlos Trujillo of Miami and Jamie Grant of Tampa; former Rep. Jose Felix Diaz; and other politically connected lobbying firms.
Trujillo and Grant hold committee chairmanships as part of Speaker Corcoran's leadership team and Diaz did until he left the House to run for the state Senate.
In addition, a second outside committee headed by a Gainesville-based GOP operative active in Tallahassee politics is now sending mailers helping McClure.
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McClure and Yvonne Fry will face off in a Republican primary Tuesday. The winner will be the favorite in a special election Dec. 19 to replace former Rep. Dan Raulerson in the Plant City-based district, who retired after conflicts with Speaker Corcoran and who backs Fry.
Asked about the involvement of House leaders in his campaign, McClure said Saturday he was unaware of any such move, but added, "I'm the most conservative candidate in the race. It's not a surprise that conservatives would be backing the conservative candidate."
Richard and Mike Corcoran couldn't be reached for comment.
Grant said he backs McClure not because of any preference by House leadership, but because the two are long-time friends.
"I think he'll make a great representative," Grant said. "If House leaders were united behind someone else, I'd still be all in with Lawrence."
In campaign finance reports filed Friday, McClure reported raising $28,280 in the last month, for a total so far of $135,485.
Fry reported raising $44,025, for a total of $112,790 in her campaign, and a total of $46,500 in her independent committee, Florida Leadership Fund.
Fry got a larger share of her money from within the district, but her committee has been funded almost entirely by two individuals — $25,000 from Plant City Mayor Rick Lott and $21,000 from retired businessman William Carr.
Among contributions shown on McClure's report:
• $1,000 from Mike Corcoran's PAC, Building a Better Florida, and $6,000 from PACs representing industry groups or clients he lobbies for — optometrists, beer wholesalers and the Hospital Corporation of America.
• $3,000 from employees or their family members in Corcoran's lobbying firm, Corcoran & Johnson.
• $2,000 from committees linked to Rep. Trujillo.
• $500 from Diaz's committee, Rebuild Florida, and $2,000 from South Florida lobbyist and political consultant Steven J. Marin, a long-time Diaz ally.
• $1,000 from Grant's committee, Floridians for Liberty and Innovation.
• Other maximum contributions from politically involved interests including the GrayRobinson and Southern Strategy Group law and lobbying firms.
Besides Fry's independent committee, which is reporting its contributions, there are now three outside committees at work in the campaign keeping their funding sources secret. They won't have to report them until after the primary.
One, Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts, run by state Christian Coalition Chairman Ash Mason, has been blasting Fry with one or more attack mailers a day.
A second, Nature Coast Conservatives, is helping Fry, and has sent out a mailer comparing the two candidates, to McClure's detriment. Fry campaign manager Brock Mikosky said he arranged that effort.
A third, called Conservatism Counts, has existed for some time but appeared to become inactive last year. After reporting no donations from October 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, it's now sending out mail on behalf of McClure, mostly positive messages, apparently using money raised since the Sept. 30 reporting date.
It's run by Stafford Jones, former Alachua County GOP chairman and a long-time player in Tallahassee circles. He made news three years ago when he was involved with a group of political consultants who secretly designed and submitted new legislative district maps intended to help maintain the Republican advantage in legislative races.
"I don't talk about my business," Jones said Saturday when asked about his committee's sources of funding and motivation for getting involved in the race.
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