News

Political Newcomers Reeling In Big Campaign Donations

Jim Saunders News Service of Florida

Led by a Jefferson County Republican who reeled in more than $108,000, newcomers posted some of the top fundraising totals in legislative races during the first three months of 2012.

Monticello businessman Halsey Beshears reported raising $108,268, as he tries to win a largely rural House district that includes all or parts of 10 North Florida counties, according to records posted Tuesday on the state Division of Elections website.

Beshears, the owner of Total Landscape Supply, appeared likely to dwarf the fundraising totals of the other four candidates planning to run for the House District 7 seat. Three had filed campaign-finance reports as of mid-Tuesday afternoon, with Perry Republican Donald Curtis raising the next highest total at $15,000.

"We will be frugal with these contributions as we deliver our positive message about growing our economy, protecting our state institutions, keeping taxes low and strengthening our education system,'' Beshears said in a prepared statement.

Campaign-finance numbers for the year's first quarter trickled in to the Division of Elections throughout the day, as candidates faced a midnight filing deadline.

Other nonincumbents joined Beshears in reporting many of the largest fundraising numbers. That likely stemmed, at least in part, from the fact that incumbent lawmakers were barred from raising money during the legislative session that started Jan.10 and ended March 9.

Beshears and several of the other newcomers are running for open seats, as districts have been shuffled through reapportionment.

Another top fundraiser during the quarter was Republican House candidate Travis Hutson, who brought in $70,675. A St. Johns County resident, he is running in District 24, which includes parts of St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties.

Newcomers from nearby Clay County, meanwhile, also had big quarters. Senate District 7 candidate Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, collected $68,401, while House District 18 candidate Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, raised $66,226.

Among other Republicans, Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers raised $65,377 as she tries to win House District 78 in Southwest Florida.

Democrats hope that newcomer Joe Saunders will be able to win the Orlando-area House District 49. Saunders raised $55,731 during the quarter.

Other top fundraisers among Democratic House candidates included Jonah Wolfson, of Miami Beach, who raised $49,625; and David Kerner, of Lake Worth, who raised $46,020.

© 2011 Sunshine State News

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