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- 2013 - July - 12th -

Putnam, Gaetz rake in campaign cash

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

Still more than a year from the 2014 elections, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam gave a glimpse this week of the strength of his re-election campaign.

Putnam, a Republican, reported collecting $591,011 in contributions between April 1 and June 30, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than other statewide candidates. As another point of comparison, Putnam's cash haul totaled more than 60 percent of the $966,788 raised by the Florida Democratic Party during the three-month period.

"Big thanks to everyone who helped kick off my reelection (with) such momentum!" Putnam said in a message on Twitter. "Nearly 2000 donors have invested in our vision for Florida!"

With candidates and political committees facing a Wednesday night deadline for filing second-quarter financial reports, state Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) also showed that he will have a huge bankroll as he prepares to run for the Senate in 2016.

Gaetz collected $252,360 in contributions as he seeks to replace his father, Senate President Don Gaetz, who will leave office because of term limits in 2016. Matt Gaetz, who also collected $3,200 for his 2014 re-election bid in the House, received Senate campaign money from across

the state, including from groups such as physicians and auto dealers.

Though the election in Senate District 1 is more than three years away, it had already drawn attention because of a potential contest between Matt Gaetz and Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City). But Patronis dropped out last week, citing family reasons.

As campaign-finance totals gradually appeared Wednesday on the state Divisions of Elections website, it became clear that many of the top fundraisers during the period for House races were newcomers running for open seats.

For example, Spring Hill Republican Blaise Ingoglia collected $47,101 as he runs to replace term-limited Rep. Rob Schenck (R-Spring Hill) in House District 35.

Similarly, Venice Republican Julio Gonzalez raised $36,191 as he seeks to replace term-limited Rep. Doug Holder (R-Venice) in District 74.

Among Democratic newcomers, Hallandale Beach Democrat Alex Lewy reported raising $33,789 in his bid to replace term-limited Rep. Joe Gibbons (D-Hallandale Beach) in District 100. 

Incumbent House members appeared to have had a relatively light fundraising period.

For instance, Rep. Dana Young (R-Tampa) has raised an overall total of $71,150 for her re-

election bid in District 60 — but only $5,500 during the past three months.

In the Senate, which will have fewer open seats in 2014, some incumbents reported hefty fundraising quarters.

Among them: Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who raised $98,775. Just behind Negron was Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who collected $97,555. Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, (R-Fort Myers) reported raising $90,275.

The state Democratic Party reported raising slightly less than $1 million during the quarter. The total for the Republican Party of Florida was $2.9 million.

Overall, the Democratic Party has raised nearly $2.1 million during 2013.

Putnam dominated fundraising among statewide candidates. The only Democrat who has opened a campaign account for the agriculture commissioner race, Thad Hamilton of Sunrise, raised $760.

State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a Republican, reported raising $104,825 during the quarter, bringing his overall total to $195,125.

Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi opened a campaign account July 1, so she did not raise money during the second quarter.

Gov. Rick Scott has not opened an account, though a closely linked political committee, known as "Let's Get to Work," reported raising $4.1 million during the quarter.

The only prominent Democrat who has announced a gubernatorial bid, former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, raised $39,213 during the quarter, giving her an overall total of $160,359.

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