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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Crist pulls in $900,000 in contributions

TALLAHASSEE — Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now running as a Democrat against incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Scott, has brought in nearly $900,000 in less than two weeks after formally announcing his candidacy.

Information posted Friday on the website of his political committee, Charlie Crist for Florida, show 24 contributions totaling $872,000 since his Nov. 4 announcement and no expenditures. Law firms and attorneys dominate the list.

The committee lists its mission as “changing the direction of Florida government, to return government to the people and away from the special interests that now control Tallahassee.”

The committee isn’t constrained by campaign contribution limits and Crist’s actual campaign account has yet to report any contributions or spending, according to the state Division of Elections’ website.

But Scott, who hasn’t yet formally filed for re-election, has his own political committee, Let’s Get to Work. It boasts a whopping $23 million in contributions while having spent just less than $3 million for the upcoming election.

Scott spent about $73 million of his own money to get elected in 2010 and is expected to raise more than $100 million in contributions for this race.

Crist’s biggest check – $250,000 – comes from Grossman Roth, a South Florida law firm specializing in personal injury cases and complex litigation.

Grossman Roth has been involved in suits against the state over an ultimately unsuccessful effort to control citrus canker disease. Homeowners sued after being encouraged to destroy backyard citrus trees in return for Wal-Mart gift cards, according to the firm’s website.

Broward and Palm Beach homeowners have won judgments of more than $27 million that the state refuses to honor, the site said.

Crist’s first contribution of $25,000 came from his committee’s own chairman, Bob Poe, the former chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

David Rancourt, a lobbyist who worked for Republican former Gov. Jeb Bush, gave $50,000. Venice retiree Rosalie Danbury gave $150,000.

Other big donors include Coral Gables retiree Barbara Stiefel and Coral Gables attorney William Andrew Haggard, at $100,000 each.

Democrat Nan Rich, a former state lawmaker, has raised $224,000 and spent nearly $162,000 since joining the race for governor last year, Division of Elections records show.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson remains a Democratic wild card, not saying whether he’ll definitely sit out or jump into the 2014 election for Florida’s chief executive.

Scott has lagged in opinion polls, which have shown him trailing Crist as voters’ choice for governor.

For example, Public Policy Polling reported last month that Crist led Scott by 12 points in a hypothetical matchup and had an approval rating of 43 percent, while Scott’s approval was at 33 percent.

Crist was Republican governor of Florida from 2007-11. In 2009, he launched an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Marco Rubio.

Crist left the party after losing the primary, became an independent, then joined the Democrats last year. Since leaving politics, he has been a private attorney in Tampa with the Morgan and Morgan personal-injury law firm.

Registered Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans in Florida, about 4.7 million to 4.2 million.

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