"In no way is this an attempt to not disclose funds," Gardiner said Saturday in an email. "Both parties move resources where they see fit."
Democrats have been less successful in raking in big checks.
One fund, called Taxpayers for Integrity in Government and controlled by Reps. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, and Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, has raised $575,000 so far this year -- mostly from a Buffalo, N.Y.-based company called Solar Sports Systems, affiliated with billionaire Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs.
Rep. Geraldine Thompson, an Orlando Democrat waging a tough Senate primary fight with Victoria Siplin, raised $50,000 through a Common Sense in Florida fund, all of it from the Florida Education Association.
But another fund controlled by House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, to help Democratic House candidates has raised just $15,000 since being created in January. By contrast, Thurston's Republican counterpart, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has raised $1.37 million this year for his own fund.
Mickey Mouse may be king of the cycle.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts gave $250,000 to the Florida Chamber of Commerce's primary committee in April and at least $300,000 to a handful of connected legislators: $115,000 to the Dorworth committee; $100,000 to future House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Port Rickey, through his Florida Forward fund; $55,000 to another fund controlled by Reps. Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee; and $30,000 to the Protect Our Liberty fund controlled by Gardiner, Sen. David Simmons, R- Maitland, and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers.
Lawmakers also have been amassing dollars in their campaign war chests, with Central Florida Republicans dominating -- even in races where they appeared mathematical underdogs a month ago.
Republican Orlando trial-lawyer William McBride has lent his campaign $205,000 to try to defeat Democratic Rep. Darren Soto in their Senate District 14 contest.
Soto, the region's only Hispanic lawmaker, raised a more-than-respectable $62,736 for the quarter, giving himself a total haul of $94,386. But McBride, the son-in-law of wealthy Christian-radio-station owner Stu Epperson and a U.S. Senate candidate in 2006, blew him out of the water with one check-signing.
McBride raised contributions of $42,487, for a total war chest of $247,000. Senate District 14 is a heavily Hispanic east Orange/Osceola district where Democrats have a 23-percentage-point advantage in registrations. However, its mostly Puerto Rican Hispanics have proven less partisan in past elections, and McBride's Latino ancestry from Mexican and Dominican immigrants could help, as will his law firm's ads for "Abogado William."
Democrats said the GOP always has a cash advantage, but Republican candidates will have the baggage of an unpopular governor to confront.
"Money won't wash away the sins of Rick Scott and his supporters," said Orange County Democratic Chairman Scott Randolph.
The Democrats' hopes for gaining ground in the Legislature rest heavily on two Central Florida candidates.
One is Maitland teacher Karen Castor Dentel, who's challenging incumbent Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, for the swing House District 30 seat.
Dentel's political bloodlines -- a sister, Kathy, in Congress; a mother, Betty, who was education commissioner and a U.S. Senate candidate -- clearly helped her. Dentel reported raising $53,482 since entering the race in April, making her the biggest Democratic House fundraiser in Central Florida. She also got another $11,165 of "in-kind" assistance from the state Democratic Party, for staff and research.
Dentel said her supporters "obviously know the importance of having someone in Tallahassee who shares their mainstream values and views. And they trust that I will make education a priority."
But Plakon outraised her -- with $61,096. He said he "was expecting a lot more than that" out of Dentel's fundraising efforts.
"People have an opportunity to see my record, which is a record of a conservative who has successfully reached across the aisle to get things done," he said.
Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-DeLand, also added to her fundraising lead over Volusia County Chairman Frank Bruno in the Senate District 8 race, collecting $45,856 in the second quarter. Hukill has amassed a total of $278,010 in her quest for the district that stretches from Daytona Beach to Ocala.
"Our support is growing, and we don't intend to let up," Hukill said.
Bruno, one of the Democrats' top candidates heading into this election cycle, reported raising $30,405 for the quarter and $207,073 total.
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