Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush, McBride Lead in Fund-Raising

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush, McBride Lead in Fund-Raising

Article excerpt

In the 2002 race for governor, Northeast Florida's early money is on incumbent Republican Jeb Bush and underdog Democrat Bill McBride.

Bush and McBride tapped into many of Jacksonville's biggest political cash cows during the first few months of the campaign, while three other Democratic hopefuls, including odds-on favorite Janet Reno, almost were shut out.

Bush raised at least $89,400 in Duval and four surrounding counties through Sept. 30, the latest information available from the state. McBride raised at least $30,900 in cash and in-kind donations.

The three other Democrats -- Reno, state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami and House Minority Leader Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach -- hauled in a total of $4,000.

It's no surprise that Bush is raising large sums in Northeast Florida. He has the built-in advantage of incumbency and can call on a network of political fund-raisers and contributors who helped him in 1998 and helped his brother, George W. Bush, during last year's presidential race.

Jeb Bush's donors are almost a who's who of Jacksonville business. A sample: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Florida Rock Industries, Gate Petroleum, The St. Joe Co., A. Dano Davis of Winn-Dixie supermarkets, power broker Tom Petway and Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver.

Bush also has swamped his rivals in raising money throughout the state and nation, bringing in a total of $1.25 million in cash and $412,000 in in-kind contributions through Sept. 30. But he always has been an easy sell in Northeast Florida, which overwhelmingly voted for him in 1998.

Mike Hightower, a Blue Cross lobbyist who is a major Bush and Republican fund-raiser, said the campaign is making a relatively simple pitch based on the governor's record on issues such as the economy, education and the environment.

"Demonstrated leadership and a long list of accomplishments," Hightower said, describing the strategy. …

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