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Hey Big Spender: Haridopolos Tops Expenditure List

One of the Senate’s most fiscally conservative members is also its biggest campaign spender as he prepares to take over the chamber’s reigns in 2010, campaign finance records show.

Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic and incoming Senate President if Republicans retain control of the 40-member chamber as expected, leads all Senate candidates in spending for the upcoming 2010 elections, according to finance records through June 30.

Haridopolos’ expenditures were eclipsed only by those of former Rep. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who is running to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, who retired earlier this year. Negron spent $231,525 by June 30. But that special election is scheduled for Aug. 4, and residents of that district are already casting ballots in early voting.

Since opening his re-election campaign two years ago, Haridopolos has spent $163,931 despite facing no political challenger in his re-election bid. With the next general election more than 14 months away, Haridopolos’ spending was nearly three times higher than the next senatorial candidate.

“I do a lot of constituent mailings,” Haridopolos said. “I don't want to have to re-introduce myself to voters every four years.”

Further, the president-in-waiting says the job requires a lot of travel as he crisscross the state to help other Senate Republicans win open seats or defend themselves against challengers. Part of the incoming president’s job is to run Senate election campaigns for the coming election.

“If you look at the expenditures of (the last four Senate presidents) I'm sure you'll see similar trends,” he said.

The top three Senate spenders in 2010 races so far face no opposition. Following Haridopolos, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston and former Rep. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, who is running to replace term-limited Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Miami, have spent $62,606 and $42,564 respectively, most of it on political consulting and laying the groundwork for any 2010 campaigns.

“It's too early right now for a lot of campaign advertising,” Rich said. “Right now, the focus is on setting up fundraising.”

On the flip side, the top fundraiser among Senate candidates is apparently keeping his powder dry in his bid to fill the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Alex Villalobos.

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami and the chairman of the powerful House Rules and Calendar Committee, has amassed a campaign account worth $412,839. So far, he’s spent less than $17,000 since opening his campaign in December. He faces fellow Republican Anitere Flores, who has raised $171,000 since opening her account in February.

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