LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The competition for campaign cash is heating up in Southwest Florida's wide open congressional district.
With incumbent Connie Mack running for senate, several Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination in the battle to replace him in Congress.
"It takes a lot of money to run and win a Congressional campaign," said FGCU professor Dr. Peter Bergerson. He believes the race to replace Mack is likely to get expensive.
"A million dollars would be the minimum in a competitive race," he said.
Former TV anchor and radio host Trey Radel announced Monday he raised more than $300,000 in the first three months of 2012, largely through internet fund-raising and a "money bomb" of smaller donations from large numbers of supporters.
Outgoing state Rep. Paige Kreegel previously led the fundraising battle, in the reporting period ending 2011, before Radel officially entered the race. According to the Federal Election Commission, Kreegel reported receipts of $158,520 in the final quarter of 2011, followed by Chauncey Goss ($99,586), state Rep. Gary Aubuchon ($94,734) and Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall ($70,640), who has since decided against running for the seat.
Kreegel downplays Radel's big total to start 2012, telling WINK News, "everyone has a good first quarter." Kreegel also says he expects to add another $100,000-plus in his latest quarterly financial report.
The other candidates have to report their first quarter earnings by Sunday.
Professor Bergerson says money does lend an advantage, but doesn't buy anyone the election.
"Just because you have the most amount of money does not necessarily guarantee you're going to win," he said.
Bergerson says the real impact will be how much money is left in the weeks before the august primary, when most voters make up their minds.
"You're going to get a lot of splash with the opening round, but you're going to get more bang for your buck in the end in August," he said.
Democrat James Roach had raised $16,752 at the end of last year, but also has yet to report to the FEC for the first part of this year.