NAPLES _ When it comes to running for office in Collier County, campaigning for County Commission requires big money.
And in the last three months of the year, Commissioner Tom Henning came out on top.
Henning raised the most of any local county candidate running for office in the fourth quarter for election reporting, which was Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011. He's raised $28,325 since Nov. 2, 2011.
"This is just the beginning," Henning said. "I am out to win."
Commissioner Donna Fiala, the District 1 Republican, has raised the most of any candidate, $53,985 since she announced she would seek another term early last year.
Fiala said she is humbled by the support.
"It's such a wonderful gesture and it shows they have faith in me. Faith that I am going to be fair," she said.
Fiala said it was her campaign chairman, Ken Drum, who encouraged her to raise a lot of money.
"We don't know what forces we will be facing. We have heard another person is announcing," she said of her race, which includes Republican challenger Steve Cosgrove and Russell Kish, who doesn't have a party affiliation.
Attempts to reach Kish were unsuccessful.
This is the third of four reports on the latest campaign finance reports filed in Bonita Springs, Naples, Collier County and Lee County. Coming next: Naples council candidate reports.
Cosgrove, who has raised $3,650 to date and didn't raise any money in the fourth quarter of 2011, said there are different ways to run a race and money is only one way.
"I knew I was going against a career politician and it does not surprise me that she can go out and get $60,000 easily," he said. "For me, I like getting out and meeting people."
Cosgrove said he has been walking the precincts recently, and he hopes to reach about 4,000 voters individually through that effort and other meetings.
"I find when you sit down and talk with people, find their concerns, it makes a big difference," he said.
Fiala said she is proud that the majority of her donors come from her district, which includes East Naples and Marco Island.
Fiala shares some contributors with other commission candidates. John Barlow Jr., Gail Barlow, Lester Dequaine, Referral Realty Group, Homer Helter's Antique & Military Mall and the law firm of Roetzel and Andress each contributed $500 to Fiala and Commissioner Jim Coletta, the District 5 incumbent.
Florida law allows each person to make contributions of up to $500. A person, as defined by law, means an individual, corporation, association, firm, partnership, club or other combination of individuals having collective capacity.
Local attorney Richard Yovanovich contributed $500 to Henning and Coletta.
Bill McDaniel, Henning's challenger for District 3 in the Golden Gate Estates area, and Coletta each received contributions from cattle rancher Russell Priddy.
Coletta, McDaniel and Fiala each got a contribution from Cheryl Coyle, the wife of Commissioner Fred Coyle.But it isn't just those related to someone in office who are giving to the candidates. Fred Coyle gave $500 to Coletta and Coletta gave $100 to McDaniel and $50 to Fiala.
Coletta said he made his contributions to "send a message."
"It's my right, just as it is the right of anyone who contributes to the candidates," he said.
McDaniel, who has raised $14,709.05 in monetary and in-kind donations for his campaign, said he would like to have raised more, but he understands that, in difficult financial times, people don't always contribute to political campaigns. He also understands that he's running against a 12-year incumbent — Henning.
"The bottom line here is that it is not all about the money," he said. "It's about the proper representation of the constituents and Collier County."
McDaniel said part of the challenge is using the money wisely, to reach voters. The other challenge, he said, is asking for money, something he isn't completely comfortable doing.
"If you want to do good things and bring about positive changes, you have to get elected. Part of getting elected is fundraising," he said. "It's part of the process. It has to be done."
McDaniel called his financial supporters "very astute political people who know what is going on."
In eastern Collier County, District 5 commission candidate Tim Nance acknowledges that he's been the biggest contributor to his campaign. In the fourth quarter, $12,000 of the $14,575 Nance raised was from personal loans.
"I have loaned money for my own campaign to get things started," he said. "I want people to be aware that I am running and I am very serious about it."
Nance said as the campaign moves forward and his name becomes more well-known, he expects more outside donations to come in. And they already have. In the fourth quarter of 2011, Nance received several donations of $500 from local businesses, in addition to contributions of less than $500 from local residents and supporters.
"I am very comfortable with the campaign and very optimistic," he said.
Nance has raised a total of about $15,000 more than his opponent, Coletta. The commissioner has raised $28,663.92 in total monetary and in-kind contributions.
Coletta said he believes having a big war chest for his campaign as the race goes on will be important, but he said he is comfortable at where his campaign is at now.
"There are so many political issues being brought up that need to be addressed — the master plan, the airport authority," he said. "In normal times, we would rectify them and move on, but the commission currently is less than congenial, less than harmonious. We are seeing the good will for the public set aside for political gain."
County elections are in August and November.