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Crist gains ground on Scott in February, but is it enough money?


For the first time since he announced in November that he was running for governor, Charlie Crist’s political committee raised more money in a month than the campaign committee of his opponent, incumbent Rick Scott.

The “Charlie Crist for Governor Committee” raised $827,350 in February, nearly five times the $184,257 raised during the same period by Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” committee.

Surpassing Scott’s fundraising behemoth is at least an indication that Crist can compete financially.

But it falls far short of providing solid proof that Crist still won’t be blown out in the months to come or at least catch up so he can compete.

Consider the many caveats to February’s numbers.

1) The month of February: Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” Committee doesn’t raise big dollars this particular month. Maybe the staff takes off for a long Valentine’s Day sweetheart getaway. Maybe the cold weather and the long nights make the staff feel sorta lonely and depressed. February 2014’s total was the lowest the committee raised since...wait for it...February 2013, when it raised a paltry $11,500. And in February 2012, the committee mustered only $62,251. Since February 2012, Scott’s committee has averaged $1.26 million a month, but only $86,002 in the month of February -- making last month’s haul look pretty good by comparison.

2) Scott’s committee is killing Crist’s committee every other month: Ok, so Charlie Crist for Governor raised $643,093 more than Scott’s committee in February. That’s impressive, but not as impressive as the amount Scott’s committee outraised Crist’s in November -- $3,169,242. Or the $2,912,175 in December. Or the $2,866,381 in January. Given the February slump, question is: Why didn’t Crist’s committee gain more ground on Scott during a month “Let’s Get to Work” apparently takes off? And oh the ground it has to gain. Crist’s committee has raised $4,400,850 since November, which is a wee shy of the $32.1 million “Let’s Get to Work” has hauled in since January 2011.

3) Trial lawyers: The Mostyn Law Firm in Houston, Texas, gave Crist’s committee a Lone Star sized boost of $300,000 on Feb. 26. Steve Mostyn, the firm’s namesake, gave $100,000 in November, too. He’s one of the Democratic Party’s biggest boosters, but the governor’s race he might care more about is the one in his home state, where state senator Wendy Davis awaits the GOP primary victor. In 2010, Mostyn contributed more than $3.5 million into the Texas governor’s race, alas, to no avail. Also on Feb. 26, Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, a law firm in Pensacola, gave $100,000. The law firm was part of the legal "dream team" that negotiated a $14 billion settlement with Big Tobacco for Florida in the 1990s and is buds with Crist’s employer, John Morgan. Take those two contributions away, and Crist’s take in February drops to $472,350.

4) Whales: The contributions from Mostyn and Levin were the only ones Crist collected last month that were $100,000 or more. How many more whales are out there for Crist? Since November, his committee’s snared 15 contributions worth more than $100,000. The biggest ones were Mostyn’s and another for $300,000 on Nov. 26 from Floridians for Fairness, a Health Care PAC. Scott seems to be reaching into deeper pockets. Since January 2011, “Let’s Get to Work” has snagged 75 contributions of more than $100,000.  The Republican Governor’s Association gave a whopper of $2.5 million in January. Billionaire Coral Gables executive Mike Fernandez, Scott’s campaign finance co-chair, kicked in $1 million. Bill Edwards, a St. Petersburg entertainment and finance mogul, has contributed two $500,000 checks. The Seminole Tribe of Florida gave $500,000. And Lawrence DeGeorge, a Jupiter venture capitalist, has given contributions of $500,000 and $490,000.

Times/Herald staff researcher John Martin contributed to this story