Hot congressional races bring in cold cash

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Money poured into to a handful of contested congressional races for the quarter ending September 30 as candidates from both parties began their final push to Election Day.

Contested races in south, central and northwest Florida have drawn national attention and the money that comes with it as Democrats try to take out a handful of freshmen Republicans in key district and challengers vie for open seats.

In Central Florida, Democratic challenger Val Demings raked in $407,820 for the quarter in her bid to unseat Republican freshman incumbent Rep. Dan Webster for the Congressional District 10 seat, according to reports filed this week with the Federal Elections Commission.

A former state House speaker, Webster raised less than half that amount, collecting just $148,856 for the quarter. To date, Demings, a former Orlando police chief, leads Webster on the fundraising front with $1.5 million in contributions compared to $1 million for Webster. Webster was outraised two years ago, however, by then-incumbent Rep. Alan Grayson, and still won.

Farther South, a tight race in Congressional District 22 continues between two former state House members, with Democrat Lois Frankel out-raising Republican Adam Hasner $566,875 to $422,455 for the quarter. Hasner, the former House Republican leader, continues to hold a slight lead in financing, though both candidates have raised more than $2.8 million.

Panhandle Republican incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland continues to hold a $1 million lead over Democratic challenger Al Lawson for the District 2 seat after out-raising the long-time state lawmaker $259,703 to $214,703 for the quarter. Southerland, elected in 2010, has so far raised nearly $1.5 million.

Outdistancing all candidates again was Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West. The freshman firebrand continued his Herculean fund raising as he collected $4.2 million for the three months ending Sept. 30. That brings his total campaign contributions to $14.8 million in his quest to return to Congress in District 18.

West’s Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, raised $888,171 for the quarter, bringing his total to more than $3.2 million in a race that has drawn national attention from both parties.

Other races of note include:

-District 13: Longtime Congressman Bill Young raised $402,436 in the quarter while Democratic challenger Jessica Ehrlich brought in $187,914. For the cycle, Young has raised $940,684 to Ehrlich’s $376,128.

-District 23: Republican Karen Harrington brought her contribution total to nearly $1.2 million after collecting $712,197 for the quarter as she tries to unseat Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz in District 23. Wasserman-Schultz raised $369,034, bringing her total to more than $3.3 million.

-District 26: Beleaguered Republican incumbent David Rivera raised a modest $82,290 for the period. His opponent, Democrat Joe Garcia, took in $388,819 for the same period. Garcia, who entered the race late, has pulled ahead of Rivera, who has been the target of multiple investigations.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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.