Hauling in campaign cash before the start of the legislative session, seven incumbent senators each received more than $100,000 in contributions during the final three months of 2011, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.
Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, far outdistanced all other candidates, according to quarterly reports filed this week. Negron raised $303,345, while Thrasher brought in $278,665.
Next highest were two senators who are competing for support to eventually become Senate president. Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, raised $157,071 during the three-month period, while Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, raised $138,875.
The other incumbents who topped six figures were Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, with $136,985; Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, with $106,125; and Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, with $100,305, according to the reports posted on the Department of State website.
Lawmakers cannot receive campaign contributions during the legislative session. This year’s session started Tuesday — two months earlier than usual because of redistricting — so lawmakers had an additional incentive to try to raise money before the end of 2011.
Counting contributions from earlier reporting periods, the top fund-raiser among Senate candidates is House Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. Grimsley, who is seeking to succeed term-limited Sen. JD Alexander, has raised a total of $729,855, including $89,320 during the fourth quarter of 2011.
Six Senate candidates have topped $400,000 in overall contributions. They are Grimsley, Benacquisto, Negron, Latvala, Thrasher and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. All but Benaquisto are currently running unopposed.