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News from the Campaign Trail

CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGNS

ROSS PLANNING TO QUALIFY THROUGH PETITIONS: Republican congressional candidate Dennis Ross, running for the central Florida seat being vacated by Agirculture Commissioner candidate Adam Putnam, has begun submitting qualifying signatures and says he plans to get on the ballot that way, rather than paying. A little more than 4,500 signatures are required to qualify, and Ross says he's submitted more than 3,500 already. “While we could easily buy a spot on the November ballot, I firmly believe that interacting with tens of thousands of voters, explaining who I am and what I stand for, is the way to earn support,” Ross said in a release. Campaign manager Fred Piccolo predicted Ross wold qualify before April. The District 12 race has drawn seven candidates. Through Sept. 30, the two who have shown the most promise in terms of financial support are Ross and Democrat Lori Edwards.

LEGISLATIVE RACE NEWS

The big legislative race news items this week were the related announcements that Rep. Kurt Kelly, R-Ocala, will run against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the Orlando Democrat being targeted by the GOP and the announcement by former Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican that he'll run to replace Kelly in House District 24. The district is encased entirely in Marion County. Baxley left the Legislature in 2007 to work for the Christian Coalition, and Kelly took his place.

Also this week, James William Grant, also known as Jamie Grant, showed up in the Division of Elections list of candidates for House District 47, the seat being vacated by Rep. Kevin Ambler. Grant is the son of former state Sen. John Grant. He is the fifth Republican to get in the race for the seat, joining Verizon lobbyist Irene Guy, businessman Tom Aderhold, former Hillsborough Commissioner Brian Blair, and Rich Reidy, an aide to Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan. Grant, 27, works in a lobbying and law firm with his father, who served from 1980 to 2000 in the House and Senate.

FUNDRAISING

PUTNAM HAS $1 MILLION ON HAND: Agriculture Commissioner candidate Adam Putnam announced Friday that he raised $182,000 in the final three months of 2009 to finish the year with $1 million in the bank. Putnam, a Republican from Bartow who is leaving Congress to try to replace term-limited Ag Commisioner Charles Bronson, faces state Sen. Carey Baker in the Republican primary. Scott Maddox, Rick Minton, Randy Hatch and Thad Hamilton are vying for the Democratic nomination. None has raised as much as Putnam, who has been in Congress since 2001.

GELBER PULLS MORE THAN $200K IN 4Q: Sen. Dan Gelber pulled in just over $200,000 in the 4th quarter of 2009 in his bid to be the state's next attorney general, a campaign spokesman said Friday. The haul brings Gelber's total for the year to about $670,000. The Miami Beach Democrat started his campaign in the summer,. He's in a primary against state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres. Gelber campaign spokesman Christian Ulvert said a cancelled fundraiser when lawmakers returned for a special session in December hurt the campaign's showing. Senate rules don't allow fundraisers during sessions, though there's an exemption for previously-scheduled fundraisers during special sessions. Ulvert said Gelber didn't agree with the exemption. “Dan was adamant that he wanted abide by the spirit of the law and we went ahead and canceled that and we took a bit of a hit,” Ulvert said. Still, he said, the campaign was pleased with what it did raise considering the lost opportunity.

COMING UP

While much of the state Republican leadership will be in Orlando this weekend, there are a few other events around the state. Saturday morning, state Senate candidate Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, will do a precinct walk at Royale Green Park in southwest Miami.

OPERATIVE WATCH

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's campaign staff is undergoing some changes, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported this week. Longtime Buchanan aide JOE GRUTERS moves from campaign manager to campaign treasurer as he seeks to go to work for an accounting firm. Gruters, who is also chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party, told the Herald-Tribune he will continue to work as an unsalaried political advisor to the campaign. So far, Buchanan's re-election campaign hasn't named a campaign manager to replace Gruters for the 2010 cycle.

ENDORSEMENT WATCH

Florida's U.S. Senate race continues to divide Republicans across the country, with Marco Rubio touting the endorsement of Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who promotes the former state House speaker as part of a "new generation of Republicans offering bold, innovative solutions." Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, praised Rubio as "exactly the type of consistent, principled conservative the Republican Party needs." Rubio's rival for the Republican nomination, Gov. Charlie Crist, has drawn endorsements from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Rubio has countered with support from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and others on the party's further right -- as polls show the race tightening and emerging as an illustration of the philosophical feud dividing the GOP.

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