ELECTION 2002; GOVERNOR Bush Dominates Fund Raising in North Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Saunders, Times-Union staff writer

TALLAHASSEE -- Buoyed by support from many of Jacksonville's business leaders, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush has outdistanced Democrat Bill McBride in raising campaign cash in Northeast Florida.

Bush had raised at least $493,000 in Duval and its four surrounding counties as of Oct. 11, while McBride had collected at least $286,000, a Florida Times-Union analysis of state records shows.

Bush has banked on contributions from prominent companies, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Florida Rock Industries, Gate Petroleum, Jefferson Smurfit and The St. Joe Co.

At the same time, he has received money from business and political leaders such as Winn-Dixie Stores Chairman Dano Davis, former U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler, businessman Tom Petway, developer John Rood and former state House Speaker John Thrasher.

Mike Hightower, a Blue Cross vice president and Republican fund-raiser, said business leaders in Northeast Florida have backed Bush policies on issues such as cutting taxes and trying to improve the state's education system. Also, he said Bush spends a lot of time talking with Jacksonville-area businesspeople.

"Jeb has supported those pro-business, conservative policies and principles,'' Hightower said. "When you do that, in fund raising, people support you.''

McBride, a Tampa attorney, has received heavy support from Northeast Florida's legal community and labor unions. Among his contributors: Duval Teachers United President Terrie Brady, North Florida Central Labor Council President Eddie Dedmon, Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers President Howard Coker, lawyer and former lawmaker Steve Pajcic and State Attorney Harry Shorstein.

Other prominent supporters include African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop John Hurst Adams, developer Bucky Clarkson, Duval County School Board Chairman Jimmie Johnson, investor Fred Schultz and former Secretary of State Bruce Smathers. …