Dane Eagle, a former staffer in the Crist administration who rose to deputy chief of staff to the governor, is looking to return to Tallahassee -- with the support of Republican leaders and business groups that his old boss bucked to run instead as an NPA U.S. Senate candidate.
Now a real estate broker, Eagle put in five years in state government, often serving as Crists point man with the Legislature. Unlike his former chief, Eagle stuck with the GOP and he has been able to rally some prominent Republicans behind his bid to represent parts of Lee County in the Florida House. Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, who is leaving the Florida House to run for Congress, have thrown their support behind Eagle. So hasformer Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp -- who also did not support Crists Senate bid when he bolted the GOP, despite serving under him.
Eagle has also reeled in the endorsements of some of the leadership of the business community and from conservative groups. The Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Medical Association, the Associated Industries of Florida, the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Rifle Association all have endorsed Eagles bid to win a House seat.
Since entering the race in November, Eagle has pulled in an impressive war chest, raising more than $133,000. But Eagle has held on to less than half of that amount, spending more than $82,000 so far.
Standing in Eagles way for the Republican nomination is Realtor Chris Berardi who served on the Cape Coral City Council. Berardi has taken some shots at Eagle, noting his connections to Crist. Trying to contrast himself with Eagle, Berardi even labeled his campaign website www.notaninsider.com.
Since entering the race at the end of November, Berardi has been hard pressed to come close to Eagle in the money chase. So far in the campaign, Berardi has raised more than $6,000 and spent more than $2,100.
Whoever emerges from the Republican primary on Aug. 14 will face a Democratic opponent in November. With a background in counseling and social work, Arvella Clare jumped into the race at the start of June and she has no rivals for the Democratic nomination. Since entering the race, Clare has raised more than $3,700 and spent more than $2,450.
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