- The Washington Times - Monday, July 12, 2010

Florida Republican Senate hopeful Marco Rubio revealed Monday he had raised a state record $4.5 million in the second quarter of 2010, becoming the latest midterm candidate to boast impressive money totals ahead of the filing deadline later this week.

Mr. Rubio’s quarterly total broke a state fundraising standard set by his main opponent in the Senate race, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party earlier this year to run as an independent.

“I continue to be humbled and energized by the outpouring of support,” said Mr. Rubio, a former Florida House speaker who was an early favorite of the anti-spending “tea party” movement and is widely seen as a rising star in the party.

Mr. Crist has not released his fundraising total for the quarter.

Mr. Rubio’s rise in the Republican Party has in part been attributed to his grass-roots fundraising prowess. His campaign reported it now has more than 75,000 donors who have given less than $86 each to the campaign, with a total fundraising haul of $11 million. Roughly $1.3 million has been raised online, and 99 percent of donors have yet to reach their contribution limit, according to the campaign.

But the campaign did not detail Monday how much of that money has been spent so far, and how much remains in the bank for November.

With Mr. Crist out, Mr. Rubio is expected to easily win the state’s Aug. 27 primary and face the governor and the Democratic nominee, either Rep. Kendrick B. Meek or wealthy businessman Jeff Greene. Polls shows Mr. Crist and Mr. Rubio tied for the lead in the race.

In Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings for the first quarter of 2010, Mr. Crist led with cumulative donations of $10.1 million, compared with $6.9 million for Mr. Rubio and $5.7 million for Mr. Meek, according to the FEC.

Mr. Meek’s campaign reported raising more than $1 million last quarter from 7,000 supporters.

The Rubio announcement is the latest in a string of announcements by campaigns across the country ahead of the FEC’s Thursday federal reporting deadline. The federal reports will be closely scrutinized to see which candidates have been able to build up their bank accounts to fund a serious challenge this fall.

Mr. Rubio, a Cuban-American, said few people thought he could win when he started his campaign last year. His $4.5 million total for the April-to-June quarter just outpaces the previous Florida record - $4.3 million raised by Mr. Crist.

But Mr. Rubio’s big haul has not been matched by another top Florida Republican officeholder.

State Attorney General Bill McCollum is a favorite of the state GOP establishment in the race to succeed Mr. Crist. But the former congressman revealed his campaign coffers are being depleted as he faces a primary challenge from health care magnate Rick Scott.

The St. Petersburg Times reported that McCollum campaign officials have acknowledged they have already spent $4 million to fend off the challenge from Mr. Scott, leaving Mr. McCollum with just $800,000 to spend. Mr. Scott has reportedly spent $21 million of his own money. The GOP primary winner will likely face Democrat Alex Sink,the state’s chief financial officer.

The McCollum campaign’s financial straits were revealed in a court affidavit related to Mr. Scott’s challenge to the Florida system of public financing for campaigns.

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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