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On the Campaign Trail

BUSH ENDORSES ATWATER IN CFO'S RACE: Senate President Jeff Atwater was endorsed Wednesday by former Gov. Jeb Bush in his race for the Chief Financial Officer spot on the Cabinet. The North Palm Beach Republican is vying with Rep. Pat Patterson, R-Deland, for their party’s nomination to the seat being vacated by CFO Alex Sink, a Democratic candidate for governor. "It’s his life experience of being a committed family person, of being a successful business man and also having served in positions of increasing responsibility in the Florida Legislature that have made Jeff uniquely qualified to handle this job,” Bush said. Former state Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, entered the CFO race last week as the leading Democratic contender.

FUNDRAISING...

RIVERA IS ONE MILLION DOLLAR SENATE CANDIDATE: Rep. David Rivera's campaign for Senate is in a category of its own, as the only campaign hitting the $1 million mark so far this cycle, campaign finance data released last week show. Rivera's gaudy $1,031,103 raised through the end of 2009 not only dwarfs the fundraising of his opponent, Rep. Anitere Flores, in the Republican primary for the Miami Senate district he's seeking, it's about double what the next closest Senate campaign total is. Flores, R-Miami, raised $390,280 through Dec. 31. They're running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami. The next best Senate fundraising total belongs to Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, who doesn't have an opponent. He's raised $557,340. No other candidates for Senate have topped a half million dollars, though Republicans Jim Norman and Jack Latvala, both running for separate Tampa Bay area seats, have both topped $400,000.

WEATHERFORD LEADS HOUSE FUNDRAISERS: No surprise here, but the guys in line to be the next two House speakers, are two of the top three fundraisers in House races. Rep. Will Weatherford, in line to be speaker starting in November 2012, leads all House candidates in campaign cash. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who recently drew a Democratic challenger in Elena McCullough, raised $270,998 in cash and in-kind contributions through the end of 2009, recent campaign finance reports show. Other candidates who have raised more than a quarter million for a House seat: Matt Gaetz, who is running to fill the District 4 seat in the Panhandle being vacated by term-limited Rep. Ray Sansom and is the son of Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has pulled in $259,253 in a five-way GOP primary; and Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, in line to become speaker at the end of this year, raised $254,439 through the end of the year. While he is expecting to assume the speakership in November, Cannon has a Democratic challenger in Amy Mercado that the minority party feels has a shot at an upset. Mercado can't touch Cannon's fundraising prowess, however – in six months she's raised $16,144.

OTHER LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGN NEWS...

STORMS GETS PRIMARY OPPONENT
State Sen. Ronda Storms has drawn a primary opponent in Senate District 10. Valrico lawyer Paul Phillips has filed to take on Storms, one of the Senate's most strident conservatives. Storms, R-Tampa, is seeking her second term. Phillips told the St. Petersburg Times that he would like to eliminate property taxes and increase sales taxes, eliminating the need to pay for property appraisers. Phillips also told the newspaper he would focus less on social issues than Storms.

WEATHERFORD DRAWS DISTRICT 61 CHALLENGE:
Rep. Will Weatherford may be in line to be the next speaker of the House, but he has to keep his seat first. The Wesley Chapel Republican has drawn a challenger, political newcomer Elena McCullough, who filed last week to run against Weatherford for the House District 61 seat in Pasco and Hillsborough Counties. McCullough is a Coast Guard veteran and a founder of a community youth group. It's her first bid for public office.

CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGNS...

CLINTON NETS $175K FOR DEUTCH: Ted Deutch's campaign for Congress raised more than $175,000 at an event featuring former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Palm Beach County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Siegel told the newspaper that more than 300 people attended the event at St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton. Deutch is running against Ben Graber in a Democratic primary for the seat that former Rep. Robert Wexler left to work for a think tank.

DISTRICT 2: State Sen. Al Lawson, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd in the Democratic primary in Florida's 2nd Congressional District, told supporters that he raised $28,000 during the final three months of the year to add to the $33,785 he had on hand at the end of the third quarter. Boyd hasn't released his fourth quarter fundraising numbers but he likely won't be phased much by Lawson's contributions. As of Sept. 30, Boyd had $1.7 million on hand.

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