It's low budget vs. big bucks in the state Senate District 4 race.
Incumbent Sen. Charles Williams is the deep-pockets man, collecting more than $250,000 in campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees throughout Florida and from other states.
His challenger, Republican George Onett of Ocala, is cash poor by comparison. But Onett said he is getting a lot of mileage for the money.
"I just got the results of a poll showing that I'm sitting at 42 percent, and I haven't spent more than $12,000," Onett said. "But I haven't missed a trip. I'm showing up at everything and meeting people everywhere. I put 2,000 miles on my car last week. I'm making big headway -- bigger than I expected without any money."
Williams, who defeated three Democratic challengers in the first primary, has gotten some heat for his fund raising, but he shrugs off suggestions that he is being bought by special interests. Williams said he is also going the extra mile to meet voters.
"I don't apologize for accepting PAC money. There is a PAC to represent everyone in this state," Williams said. "Things are going really well. I'm continuing to campaign as hard as ever. I'm not taking anything for granted, and I feel good about my effort."
Both candidates call themselves conservatives and have harmonic views on many issues. Both are opposed to gun control. Both believe in protecting private property rights. Both cite "family values" as something they support.
District 4 begins in Nassau County and stretches west to parts of Leon. From the state line, it drops south to Citrus County. It is predominately rural with an agriculture-based economy.
Williams has been an uncommonly forceful senator for a first-termer. He is staunchly pro-business, which has endeared him to industry and most of his constituents, but not to environmentalists. Williams was a fervent supporter of a school-prayer bill that failed. He opposed payments to descendants of the Rosewood massacre.
"I believe my voting record represents the views of my constituents," Williams said. "I won every one of the 18 counties in the first primary. I think that shows I'm representing the people of the district."
Onett is a former attorney and lobbyist who breeds and trains horses. He ran into legal trouble in the 1980s when he was convicted of several federal felony charges including mail fraud and perjury. The charges relate to a payment Onett got while he was a lobbyist for the thoroughbred and liquor industries.
Onett was disbarred and declared bankruptcy. Federal tax liens were placed on his property. He is forthcoming about his troubles, freely volunteering to talk about them. Onett said he was wrongfully targeted in a sting operation and was unfairly prosecuted.
Tallahassee is Onett's former home, and he said he knows how the town works. Onett said he could be an effective senator from the gun. He disavows lobbyists now, even though he once was one.
"I know how to write a bill and pass a bill. I was a lobbyist up there," Onett said. "I'm not beholden to anyone. I don't have lobbyists that I owe, and I don't have to answer to anyone but my conscience and the people."
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