Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brothers Hotticket for GOP President Draws Top Donors to Fund-Raiser

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brothers Hotticket for GOP President Draws Top Donors to Fund-Raiser

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Saunders, Times-Union staff writer

ORLANDO -- When President Bush appeared before a crowd of Florida Republicans last night, he quickly made clear why he was there.

"Anything I can do to help Jeb stay in the governor's office, I'll do," Bush said, referring to his younger brother, the Florida governor.

And last night, that meant helping raise money. Lots of money, from businesses and people who want to help Jeb Bush win a second term in November.

A who's who of Republican politicians, contributors and fund-raisers from throughout the state packed the party's Florida Majority Dinner at a posh hotel at Universal Studios. Party finance chief Al Austin said he did not know how much money was raised, though the Orlando Sentinel reported earlier that the GOP expected to raise $2.5 million.

The president's appearance helped serve as a draw for the annual dinner, which is viewed in the party as a kickoff for the fall campaign. About 1,500 Republicans dined on steaks and sipped wine, with the crowd so large that about 300 were seated outside the ballroom where the president spoke.

"I think that for Republicans, the Bush name is synonymous with Republicanism," said state Senate Majority Leader Jim King, R-Jacksonville. "You've got a quinella. You've got W. and Jeb all on the same podium."

The president appeared at the dinner after visiting an Orlando senior citizens center to promote physical fitness for older Americans. During a tour of the center, Bush downplayed his prowess in raising money.

"No, no," he said. "It's the candidates . . . It's the candidates."

An invitation listed dozens of dinner chairmen, vice chairmen and host committee members, including key Jacksonville-area Republicans such as developer John Rood, lobbyist Marty Fiorentino and St. Joe Co. chief Peter Rummell. Also in the audience were former House Speaker John Thrasher, R-Orange Park, Education Secretary Jim Horne of Orange Park and dozens of lawmakers and Cabinet members.

Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature and the Cabinet, are expected to raise far more money than Democrats for the 2002 elections. …

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