Analysis: Negron, Thrasher top Senate candidate fundraisers

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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.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.