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Legislative Races Will Set Fundraising Records Next Year

Democratic and Republican operatives charged with raising money for state House and Senate campaigns said Thursday they expect to spend an average of at least $500,000 per House seat for the upcoming 2010 election cycle.

Open Senate seat races will be even more expensive, with party fundraisers expecting the average price tag to ring up at $2.5 million.

Facing more than 20 open seat races that are not considered locks for either side, party staffers speaking to members of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists said fundraising for the 2010 races is made more difficult by the slumping economy.

Speaking to attendees at the group’s fifth annual convention, leading fundraisers from both parties said they’ve cut costs and improved efficiencies to ensure that the money raised by contributors gets to the races as intended.

“Our goal as a staff is to invest as much money as we can into those races,” said Carmen Ulrich, finance director for Republican Senate campaigns.

Bill Warren, House Republican fundraiser, said the Florida GOP won’t intervene in primary elections as it faces a number of intra-party races for a handful of seats.

Warren predicted 10 to 15 competitive House races. Depending on the district, the campaigns could cost from $150,000 in relatively secure rural districts to $750,000 in contested races in major metropolitan areas.

Jeff Ryan, House Victory 2010 finance director, said Democratic Party officials are targeting 20 open seats where voter registrations show Democratic candidates are viable.

Given the economic circumstances, Democratic leaders are looking for candidates who have the ability to raise their own contributions.

“Money is the indicator - how they connect with donors and later connect with voters,” Ryan said.

Besides their geographic greater size, Ulrich said the Senate races are more expensive because leadership has determined that campaign activities should be ongoing and not limited to the several months leading up to an election.

“Obviously, we must be using our money well,” Ulrich said. “We win.”

The fundraising panel was among a slate of seminars and meetings held by the lobbying association during a two-day event. The group promotes an ethical standard for lobbyists. Other topics included sustainable development, gift rules, electioneering communication organizations, elections law and the increasing use of social networking media such as Facebook in campaigns and lobbying efforts.

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