Local candidates spend more than $1 million of their own money on campaigns

Dina Keever, the Republican candidate for Palm Beach County state attorney, set a goal of raising $100,000 by the beginning of July for her uphill race against Democrat Dave Aronberg and no-party candidate Robert Gershman.

Keever did it — but it took $50,500 of her own money to break into six figures.

Through July 6, Keever and other local candidates had kicked in more than $1 million in personal funds toward their 2012 campaigns. Leading the way is judicial challenger Jaimie Goodman, who has put $246,000 into his challenge of Judge Ron Alvarez. Judges Peter Evans, Timothy McCarthy and James Martz have all put at least $100,000 in personal funds into their reelection bids. Former Circuit Judge Edward Garrison has put $101,000 of his own money into his campaign for an open county judgeship.

Property appraiser candidate Robert Weinroth has dipped into his personal coffers for $100,000 for his challenge of five-term incumbent Gary Nikolits.

Evelyn Garcia, who recently resigned from the Democratic National Committee after Israel-bashing emails she wrote came to light, has put $65,000 in personal money into her Democratic primary battle against three other foes for the open state House District 88 seat.

Considering Garcia listed her net worth as $21,000 on candidate filing documents, the Politics column asked the candidate how she came up with the $65,000. A little later, Garcia said she had consulted the Florida Commission on Ethics and "received a clarification on joint assets and financial disclosure. Those assets will be added and my net worth will be amended accordingly."

A similar eyebrow-raiser was the $23,100 in personal money that state Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, poured into his state Senate District 27 race. Clemens listed a net worth of $26,700 as of Dec. 31, but said he was able to self-finance after getting a commission check this year from his employer, Energy Assistance Group.

Other noteworthy self-financers include Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher ($58,000), Democratic congressional candidate and former West Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel ($50,000), Republican county commission candidate Hal Valeche($50,000) and comeback-minded former Republican state Rep. Carl Domino ($50,000).

Elsewhere:

— Seat-hopping Democrat Kevin Rader's decision to leave two different state Senate races and challenge state Rep. Steve Perman, D-Boca Raton, has drawn an enthusiastic response from unions — but not, so far, from contributors.

The local AFL-CIO switched its endorsement from Perman to Rader after Rader got in the race and the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association is poised to do the same.

Rader holds a financial advantage over Perman, accumulating $95,305 through July 6 to Perman's $61,385. But most of that money was raised while Rader was a candidate for Senate. After announcing his plans to challenge Perman on June 6, Rader raised $13,050 while Perman collected $26,685.

— The year that U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, was a history teacher at Deerfield Beach High School is a frequent laugh line in his speeches. Now it's the centerpiece of a new TV ad and a glossy mailer for West's reelection bid.

"When I first retired from the military back in 2004 after 22 years, I taught high school for a year. And that was such an enjoyable experience that I volunteered to go back to Afghanistan," West said this month on Fox News.

As West introduces himself to voters in newly drawn Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18, he's playing up that classroom stint as a formative experience.

"As a former high school teacher, I have seen firsthand how the educational bureaucracy is leaving behind America's children," says a statement from West in a mailer that describes the House freshman as "Soldier. Teacher. Principled Leader."

A new 30-second ad highlights West's teaching experience as well. But the ad makes it clear that experience was limited. "High school history teacher, 2004-2005," says writing on the screen while West speaks.

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