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Patrick Murphy Routing Republican Foes in the Money Chase

April 16, 2014 - 6:00pm
One of the quietest developments in Florida politics has been Republican candidates failing to keep pace with Patrick Murphy in the money chase in what should be a competitive congressional race. The Republican candidates are having no problem putting their money where their mouths are but their supporters arent exactly opening up their wallets.

Murphy should be a top target for Republicans. He represents a swing district and barely beat conservative Allen West back in 2012. This time Murphy wont have Barack Obama and Bill Nelson cranking out Democratic turnout.

But Murphy has learned some lessons on what not to do from West. While West often took to the national stage during his single term in Congress, Murphy has focused on constituents. West made no effort to water down his conservatism, while Murphy has gone out of his way to hit Obama and fellow Democrats when he felt it was warranted. Murphy even spoke in Congress to hit Obama for raiding Medicare Advantage to pay for Obamacare.

Murphys been busy raising cash for 2014. So far, hes raised more than $2 million from individuals and almost $750,000 from PACs. By the end of March, Murphy was sitting on more than $2.3 million. Even though Murphy will face attacks from conservative groups, his allies will also be throwing money against whichever Republican wins the primary.

In the meantime, Murphys fundraising abilities continue to impress and help shape the Republican field. Murphys kept West away from a rematch while Adam Hasner shot down Republican efforts to run against him. West threw his support to Ellen Andel who didnt stay in the race long and didnt make much progress on fundraising. Murphys strong fundraising clearly came into play in all of this.

If Murphy is building an impressive war chest, the same cant be said of any candidate in the crowd of Republicans wanting to replace him. Carl Domino has done the best, raising almost $148,000 from individuals but also throwing more than $429,500 of his own cash into the pot. By the end of March, Domino had more than $387,650 in the bank. That makes Domino the closest thing to a front-runner for the Republican nomination but he has his own weaknesses. After eight years in the Florida House, Domino is coming off two straight political defeats, having lost to Ellyn Bogdanoff in a state Senate primary in 2010 and losing to MaryLynn Magar in a Florida House primary two years later. Still, Domino has an impressive background in politics, the military and in the private sector, and his experience does contrast with the youthful Murphy. Domino is also the only Republican who made the ballot by petition.

Brian Lara is also running for the Republican nomination and, like Domino, he is basically funding his own campaign. Laras raised almost $14,000 from individuals but is relying on $100,000 of his own cash. Lara kept most of it in the bank, keeping almost $103,250 on hand by the end of March.

With his political career in Connecticut going nowhere after failing to unseat Joe Lieberman, Alan Schlesinger continues his life as a political gadfly by running against Murphy. Schlesinger has hauled in almost $25,000 from individuals but the bulk of his campaign funds came from $75,000 of his own cash. By the end of March, Schlesinger had $28,150 on hand.

Calvin Turnquest is the one Republican who has raised more from individuals than he did from his own accounts but he has not impressed with fundraising. Turnquest raised more than $21,650 from individuals and put in $10,100 of his own money into his campaign. By the end of March, he had blown through most of it, keeping less than $4,650 on hand. Despite serving on the Tequesta City Council, Turnquest hasnt done well when hes sought higher office. In the state House primary where Magar beat Domino, Turnquest was a nonfactor, placing fourth in single digits.

Nurse and conservative Beverly Hires ran as an independent against Magar in the 2012 general election and took less than one half of 1 percent. Hires is back, this time as a Republican. She raised $770 and is relying on $41,000 from her own funds for the current campaign. But with less than $1,950 in the bank by the end of March, shes not exactly in the best of shape.

Having failed in his presidential bids and looking to launch Frank Lynch University in 2015, businessman Frank Lynch is also running for the GOP nod. He hasnt raised a cent from other people but is relying on $10,000 of his own funds. At least Lynch has kept almost all of it in the bank, spending around $75 by the end of March.

Nick Wukoson is also running for the Republican nomination but his numbers were not available from the FEC by Thursday.

So far, Republicans are clearly staying on the sidelines, wondering who -- if anybody -- to support. This gives Murphy even more time to extend his money advantage, even as the GOP hopefuls have to rely on their own cash. A major candidate can, of course, cough up $10,000 by May 2 to make the ballot but, with the possible exception of Domino, none of the Republicans have proven they can raise the cash to go toe to toe with Murphy. Some of these candidates will have a challenge to pay the ballot fee.

Republicans could rue 2014 if Murphy cruises to another term. Murphy is easily one of the best prospects Democrats have for future candidates for statewide office. Only 31, Murphy has successfully been able to claim the political center and hails from an important, and growing, part of the state. Unlike Ted Deutch or Corrine Brown, its easy to see Murphy as a standard bearer for Democrats in, say, 2022 or 2024. Murphy has the look of a rising star and, so far, Republicans are doing little to turn aside his trajectory.

Tallahassee-based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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