Primary Could Cost Kosmas Cash

Posted November 20, 2009 at 5:25pm

Not long after she bucked her leaders and voted against the health care bill, freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.) earned a Democratic primary challenger.

But to say former Winter Springs Mayor Paul Partyka is trying to carve liberal votes away from Kosmas might be a bit of a stretch.

In his announcement last week, Partyka discussed the importance of “a practical health insurance program for all,— but he also emphasized tort reform, an issue that isn’t exactly dear to the hearts of liberal voters. Partyka, the managing partner at a commercial real estate firm, made his candidacy announcement at a local chamber of commerce meeting.

But regardless of where Partyka hopes to find traction, it’s an encouraging development for the GOP in east-central Florida’s 24th district.

It’s a true swing seat: The same voters who sent Kosmas to Capitol Hill narrowly favored Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in last year’s presidential contest.

Even if Partyka doesn’t spur Kosmas to adjust her generally moderate voting record, any challenge will force her to spend money in different ways than the campaign might otherwise prefer.

Partyka said Friday that he could put significant personal resources into his race but would prefer to run a more traditional grass-roots campaign.

So far this cycle, Kosmas has raised more than $900,000 for her re-election effort, a sum that easily puts her in the top 10 among freshman fundraisers. She reported more than $725,000 in cash on hand at the end of September.

Fundraising among Republican challengers in the 24th district has been decidedly underwhelming. After raising more than $100,000 in less than two months of campaigning, Winter Park City Commissioner Karen Diebel (R) raised just $50,000 more in the third quarter. She reported just more than $120,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30.

When Diebel joined the race in early June, national party officials were openly excited about her candidacy, in large part because of her background as an executive director for Verizon Business and fundraising potential — not to mention her reputation as a candidate with deep pockets.

So far Diebel hasn’t used her own money to make a major fundraising splash. From June to September, she had loaned her campaign $25,000.

When contacted Friday, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere didn’t seem quite as bullish on Diebel as committee officials had been over the summer.

“We have several solid candidates in this race who would be well-positioned to beat whichever liberal emerges from the Democrat primary,— Sere said.

The fourth quarter will certainly be a key fundraising window for Diebel — who didn’t finalize her campaign team until mid-August.

That fact doesn’t seem to be lost on her campaign, which last week held a high-profile fundraiser headlined by professional golfer Annika Sorenstam.

“We are very pleased with where we stand right now and as we have said all along we will have the resources we need to win this race,— Diebel said in a statement from her campaign Friday.

Seven other Republicans are also vying for the GOP nomination, including state Rep. Sandy Adams, who appears to be gaining some momentum among state and local political officials.

Two weeks ago, state Speaker Larry Cretul (R) and a number of other legislators endorsed their fellow state Representative in the Congressional race.

Adams, a deputy sheriff in Orange County for 17 years before being elected to the state House in 2002, also picked up the endorsement of Donald Eslinger, the sheriff of Seminole County.

But Adams will also have to prove herself on the fundraising front in the coming quarters. She entered the race in July and had raised less than $60,000 as of Sept. 30.

Meanwhile, the incumbent’s staff would rather talk about legislating than campaigning.

“Congresswoman Kosmas is focused on representing her constituents as an independent voice working toward common-sense, fiscally responsible solutions to create jobs and move Central Florida’s economy forward,— said her spokesman, Marc Goldberg.