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Race to replace imprisoned Lee county commissioner heats up

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Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Race to replace imprisoned Lee county commissioner heats up

CREATED Feb 27, 2014

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The race to win your vote for the Lee County Commission District 4 seat is becoming expensive. 

The race is getting extra attention because the person who previously held the seat, Republican Tammy Hall, resigned in disgrace and was sent to prison.

Hall was convicted in federal court amid accusations she illegally spent campaign money to fund her personal lifestyle - from shopping trips to her mortgage.

While Hall's money decisions may have been her downfall, ironically it's money that could very well decide who's the front runner to succeed her. 

Governor Rick Scott has appointed fellow Republican Brian Hamman to serve the rest of Hall's term.

Hamman is among a handful of candidates running for the seat when it comes up for re-election this year.

Fox 4 has learned Hamman has raised a little more than $54,000 for the race. 

It's more than three other Republicans who are running.

Former Lee County Commissioner Andy Coy has raised just over $8,000.

Josh McGrail has raised just over $1600 and Larry Murphy has raised $100.

But the biggest fundraiser so far is Sawyer Smith who's raised more than all of the other Republican candidates combined.

Records indicate Smith has raised more than $118,000.

"I'm honored by the outpouring of support that's come to my campaign," says Smith who's an attorney and business owner.

"I'm out everyday talking about the issues and listening to peoples perspectives," Smith adds.

Smith, whose family is well known in local politics, credits contributions from various sources - from fans of sustainable fishing, to watermelon farmers, to housewives.

"I believe the community at large is ready to have independent thinking," on the Lee County Commission, says Smith.

But Hamman, who has raised less than half of what Smith has so far, says the race is about more than just money.

"The voters are not going to vote for the guy with the biggest bank account," Hamman says.

Many of Hamman's contributions have come from builders and developers.

"They going to vote for the person who they think can do the best job," says Hamman of voters.

Hamman claims there have been fewer squabbles on the county commission since Governor Scott appointed him to fill Hall's seat. 

The Republican candidates will square off in the August primary election.

The winner will go on to face Democrat Debbie Jordan, who's raised more than $8,000 so far, in the general election in November. 

Republican voter registration outnumbers Democratic registration in Lee county.

Historically, that's meant the winner of the seat is essentially decided in the GOP primary rather than in the general election.

You can register to vote right now on the state election website