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Fundraising shows Democratic threat to GOP rule

TALLAHASSEE — Republicans, beware.

For the first time since the GOP won control of Florida’s government in the mid 1990s, the Democratic Party and its leading candidate for governor together raised more money than their Republican counterparts at the start of a gubernatorial election season.

Alex Sink, the state’s Democratic Chief Financial Officer, raised almost $1.3 million to Attorney General Bill McCollum’s $1.04 million, since April 1. The Democratic Party raised nearly $2 million, while the Republican Party of Florida raised almost $1.2 million.

First, blame the bad economy for the turn of fortunes.

Many big-donor Republicans tend to hail from the development and finance industries, which are crashing. Democrats rely more on lawyers, unions and small donors who haven’t been as devastated by the housing industry meltdown.

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s success in financing his U.S. Senate race may also be hurting McCollum’s 2010 fundraising. Crist has leveraged the power of his office and personality to raise a record-setting $4.3 million.

“There’s not much money out there, and Charlie Crist is taking a lot of it that McCollum needs,” said Republican operative Roger Stone. “Charlie is the first to ask for money and the likeliest to get it.”

Sink has been hitting up donors for months as well.

Though the Democratic edge isn’t large and the 2010 elections are more than a year away, campaign finance data shows Sink is cutting into Republican territory.

Sink, whose office helps regulate insurers, received at least $100,000 each from the insurance and development industries, according to a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times analysis of the campaign-finance quarter that ended June 30.

A former banker, Sink brought in about $74,000 from bankers and accountants and another $100,000 from donors who listed their occupations as corporate leaders or business owners.

Her biggest contributors: Lawyers, their employees and their spouses who contributed at least $288,000, almost a quarter of her money.

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