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In reelection bid, Simpson not taking chances

It’s more than 17 months away, but if anyone wants to suit up for a political suicide mission, they would do fine to run against Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.

The rookie lawmaker, who was first elected in November, appears to be accumulating quite a war chest.

Through March, he’s raised $74,650 -- despite no sign of opposition. On June 26, he plans to throw a fundraiser between 6 and 7:30 p.m. at the Oxford Exchange at 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa with a list of supporters that is essentially a catalog of the Republican power structure in Tallahassee.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford. Senate President Don Gaetz. Attorney General Pam Bondi. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner. Majority Leader Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. Senator Bill Galvano. Senator Jack Latvala. Senator Tom Lee. Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron. Senator John Thrasher. (What, no Sen. John Legg???)

“We’re hoping to get a good crowd,” said Simpson, 46, who also ran unopposed in 2012. He had a busy first session, sponsoring high-profile bills like an Everglades cleanup bill, which passed (and might be why Robert Coker of U.S. Sugar is on the host committee), and a pension reform bill, which didn’t.

He actually disagreed with Weatherford on how far to go on the pension bill, a surprising conflict considering that Simpson pays Weatherford about $36,000 a year to work as a consultant for his environmental company.

“There’s going to be some times when we don’t share views,” Simpson said of Weatherford’s continued support. “We’re still friends.”

If a challenger does emerge, they should be warned that if Simpson does blow through his contributions, he still has a hefty personal fortune to back him up. Last week, he was the first lawmaker to electronically file his 2012 financial disclosure. Although lawmakers are just now filing their returns, few will top what Simpson reported: a net worth of $15.6 million. He actually increased his net worth by nearly 30 percent from 2011.

Simpson has a diverse array of business interests in egg farming, environmental abatement, demolition, and banking. But who knows? By next year his fortune could decline because of all the time he’s spending as a senator.

“It stands to reason I won’t do as well when i’m a senator,” he said. “I just don’t have the time.”