Follow the money 

The 2010 political season received its first adrenaline shot Jan. 11, when fourth quarter 2009 campaign finance reports were released for state and local candidates (federal filings will follow on Jan. 15). What we have before us now is a taste of things to come, in abbreviated form.

l Governor: Florida's chief financial officer, Democrat Alex Sink, leads the pack of gubernatorial hopefuls. (There are 19 registered candidates, although only three matter.) Her fourth-quarter contributions broke the $1 million mark ($1.05 million, to be exact) for the fourth time since she announced this time last year, bringing her total cash heap to more than $5 million, of which she's only spent $745,284. Retiring Republican attorney general Bill McCollum actually beat her in the fourth quarter, though, bringing in $1.4 million. He didn't announce until May 2009, so his grand total is only $3.3 million, of which he's already dropped $566,000. McCollum's chief Republican adversary, train-hating state Sen. Paula Dockery from Lakeland, is boasting about her two-month contributions of $191,734, but $100,000 of that was loaned from a certain Mrs. Paula Dockery. Dockery has so far dropped $92,138 on her campaign. If she continues to make populist inroads into McCollum's base, it could mean Republicans will Sink, along with the rest of the state.

l Attorney General: The race to replace McCollum is getting interesting. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, and state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, are running neck-and-neck. Aronberg brought in $254,439 in the fourth quarter, beating out Gelber's $203,803; in total, though, Gelber still leads (barely) with $669,906 in the bank compared to Aronberg's $655,750. Meanwhile, embattled frequent-flying Republican lieutenant governor Jeff Kottkamp has only scraped together $358,073 toward his AG bid: just $182,154 in the fourth quarter. Troubling for him is the rise of former assistant state attorney Pam Bondi, who in just one month running has pulled in $198,755.

l State Senate: Powerful Altamonte attorney — and former Republican state house representative — David Simmons is quietly building up an impressive stash (he has been for more than two years) in order to fight for the District 22 seat being vacated by Lee Constantine, should any Democrat announce by this summer. In the fourth quarter, Simmons pulled in $85,494 from Republican interests, bringing his grand total to an impressive $292,517.

l State House of Representatives: Probably the most talked about race is the one involving 2010's house speaker, Dean Cannon, and District 35. The Sentinel recently branded Cannon a "shadow warrior," meaning that (for good or bad) he does a lot behind the scenes. On the surface, he appears to be doing quietly fine against his Democratic foil, Amy Mercado. Cannon roped in $72,900 in the fourth quarter, bringing his big number up to $253,651. But Mercado, an activist in the state's Democratic party with Latin community and labor ties, is a potential sleeper. Her fourth-quarter contributions don't really tell that story, though: She only brought in $4,435, upping her total ante to just under $15,000.

Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, only recently learned of his Republican challenger for the District 36 seat, Craig Alan McCarthy. Randolph raised $5,400 in the fourth quarter; his total to date is $18,918. McCarthy, who didn't file until Dec. 21, has no finances yet to report.

Over in District 40, Democrat Todd Christian is again trying his hand at a house seat, after losing to Eric Eisnaugle two years ago. Christian is fighting an uphill battle, though, with his fourth (and only) quarter tally just reaching $4,715. Eisnaugle, who's been collecting all year, brought in $19,200 in the fourth quarter and now sits atop $63,710, ready to tear Christian down.

l Orange County Mayor: With Rich Crotty out of the picture, a host of characters have popped up. It turns out that despite the ruckus (here's looking at you, Matt Falconer), the numbers do tell the probable story. County commissioner Bill Segal — longtime favorite to win the race, but hardly the most visible — roped in $69,110 in the fourth quarter, meaning he now leads the pack with almost $500,000 in contributions. Republican creation county commissioner Mildred Fernandez brought in a startling $52,119; she now boasts a total of $83,803. And commissioner Linda Stewart, who's done everything short of jumping out of a cake topless to get notice, trailed her co-workers with just $21,832 in the fourth quarter, or $85,355 total. Tea Party crasher Falconer is barely hanging on, with just $5,000 in fourth-quarter contributions (plus a $90,000 loan from himself), claiming $38,390 in contributions to date. Former commissioner Teresa Jacobs has yet to announce. Segal, for the win.

l Orlando City Commission: It may not be over yet! Despite the "curse of Daisy" (and some bad press), the one remaining challenger to Lynum's District 5 seat in the March 9 city election, Vibert White, managed to add $2,728 to his coffers in the fourth quarter ($1,500 of that in loans), which gives him a healthy kitty of $18,368. Lynum still seems inevitable, though, registering $6,392 in fourth-quarter donations, or $62,263 total. Commissioners Robert Stuart and Phil Diamond, who both have a few thousand bucks in rainy-day money, remain unchallenged.


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