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The Money Race: Big education weighs in big-time for Crist

Cash APDemocrat Charlie Crist left the primary gate boosted by a $1.5 million cash haul in late August as the National Education Association and the Democratic Governor’s Association each gave his “Charlie Crist for Florida” committee hefty checks for $500,000.

By contrast, Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s political campaign, Let’s Get to Work, scored only $127,410 for the week ending Aug. 29 as the conservative billionaire Koch brothers wrote the committee the largest check of the period -- $25,000, according to reports filed at the Florida Division of Elections.

But Scott’s contributions to his political campaign during that period outpaced Crist’s as the governor  raised $709,178 to Crist’s $272,682.

That brings the totals for both candidates – both political committees and campaigns – to $43.3 million for Scott and $28.6 million for Crist. Scott has spent proportionately more than Crist, however -- $28.3 million to Crist’s $11.6 million – as the Republican has loaded the airwaves with a barrage of heavy-hitting attack ads, forcing Crist to attack back.

The cash-on-hand numbers at this point, however, is where they are more evenly matched. Scott has $15 million in the bank and Crist has $11.6 million.

While the Democratic Governor's Association money brings the total from that organization to $2 million this cycle, the union money flowing to Crist is the real story this week, however.  Scott has spent considerable capital, time and television buys in a calculated effort to walk back many of his early policy decisions on education and to soft-pedal his position on Common Core. 

But the check from most powerful teacher’s union in the nation is a signal that the teachers groups are still targeting Scott. The money came a week before a visit to Florida from Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the newly-elected head of the organization in which she proclaimed that they were prepared to help Crist in their quest to "get rid of toxic testing." Her 12-hour tour started in the Keys and continued with visits to AllapattahMiddle School and HialeahHigh School in Miami-DadeCounty. Crist and Florida Education Association officials were at her side.

Scott’s committee lists $314,000 in contributions from educators and those self-identified as in education and most of it is from for-profit colleges and charter schools. Until now, Crist’s education contributions were barely noticeable, as the Florida teachers union steered money to the Democratic Party instead of getting involved in the primary. 

Photo: Associated Press