GOP Senate Hopefuls Scramble to Raise Funds to Take on Bill Nelson
Around the State
Money will be important in the race since the state has 10 media markets, and two polls released in recent days showed that a clear majority of Florida Republicans remain undecided on who they are backing to take on Nelson. The polls also found that all of the candidates remain unknown quantities -- giving the Senate hopefuls the chance to define themselves and each other.
As of the end of June, the Republicans outraised the Democrats in the race, but the GOP hopefuls had less cash on hand. The candidate who raised the most of any of the Republicans -- state Senate President Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island -- pulled out of the race despite having almost $3 million in his campaign war chest.
None of the other Republican hopefuls came close to matching Haridopolos’ fundraising pace in the first half of 2011. Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux raised more than $951,000 and kept most of it -- around $840,000 -- in the bank. Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner brought in more than $565,000 and kept more than $472,000 on hand. Retired Army officer and businessman Mike McCalister brought in less than $14,000 and kept more than $11,000 on hand. Central Florida businessman Craig Miller entered the race in July.
With Nelson starting out with more on hand, the Republican hopefuls urged supporters this week to open up their wallets.
LeMieux sent out emails to his supporters featuring a rising star in Tallahassee -- state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, the son of incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. Besides sending out a letter asking for contributions to LeMieux’s campaign, Matt Gaetz recorded a video message urging supporters to back the former senator.
In addition to releasing the video on Thursday, the LeMieux campaign sent out an email from the candidate on Wednesday attacking Nelson and asking for help.
“Our campaign is making great progress in the race to defeat the Obama/Reid agenda that continues to devastate our economy and hurt Floridians,” LeMieux wrote. “With recent polls showing me leading the Republican field and with endorsements from Gov. Haley Barbour, conservative legislators across our state, and thousands of Floridians ... our campaign clearly has the momentum to win in November."
LeMieux took aim at “Big-Spending Bill Nelson” in the email, contrasting their records in the Senate.
“For nearly four decades in government, Bill Nelson has supported higher taxes, more regulation, and out-of-control spending,” LeMieux continued. “In the U.S. Senate, I voted for a balanced budget amendment and stood up against Obamacare, amnesty, and wasteful spending. In 2012, we have an opportunity to change the United States Senate and protect the American dream for future generations by electing conservatives who will balance the budget, eliminate government waste, and establish a climate that fosters job creation.”
Having won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll in Orlando earlier in the month, Hasner’s team sent out emails to supporters asking for money and bashing LeMieux's ties to former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Hasner’s team pointed to their success at CPAC and called their candidate the “only true conservative in the race” who would “help lead the fight against the status quo in Washington.”
Pointing to a Public Policy Polling poll released on Wednesday that showed him leading the pack of Republican candidates and to his second place finish in CPAC, McCalister’s team urged supporters to keep their momentum going. McCalister posted a message on Twitter urging supporters to open up their wallets and insisting the PPP poll showed he is building steam.
"People all across Florida are responding to my outsider message of lower taxes, less spending, and limiting government to its constitutionally mandated role,” said McCalister in a statement released on Wednesday. “I am gratified by the progress we're making, but we're not done yet."
Pointing to his record in the private sector as proof that he will be an effective senator, Miller has also been asking supporters for contributions.
“I have spent my life learning how to lead, and I am running to bring those skills to the U.S. Senate, and I am asking you to join me,” wrote Miller to supporters in an email sent out on Tuesday. “We are approaching a very critical deadline in the campaign. ... It is crucial that we make a strong showing this quarter and I need your help.”
Miller, who placed a distant fourth in the CPAC straw poll, had a sense of urgency.
“Our campaign cannot continue without your support,” he wrote.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.