Gerdes, Kornell lead pack in St. Petersburg Council campaign contributions
ST. PETERSBURG -- It may not sound like a lot of money, but in this town, raising $15,000 in three months for a City Council race is a big deal.
Which is why attorney Charlie Gerdes issued a news release this week announcing he raised $15,099 between April 1 and June 30 in his bid for the District 1 seat. That amount far outpaced his two rivals, financial consultant Joshua Shulman, who raised $4,224, and former council member Robert Kersteen, who raised $3,446. In his news release, Gerdes helpfully points out that Shulman loaned his campaign $1,000 and that Kersteen relied on $1,031 in in-kind contributions.
By comparison, the release states, Gerdes' contributions "show broad-based support, having been garnered from 72 individual contributors" in a race to fill the seat being left open by Herb Polson, who isn't seeking re-election. The headline boasts he raised 350 percent more than his foes.
What the release doesn't mention is that Gerdes received nearly $1,500 from five donors with the same address as his 2nd Avenue S. law firm. Another $2,610 came from six donors with the last name of "Gerdes" and $1,250 came from three donors with the name of "Charles Gerdes." The other $9,739 Gerdes raised, however, does come from 58 sources that don't share an address with his firm and who have different last names.
And that is notable because it's still more than what his opponents have raised (although Shulman got into the race later, almost a month after Gerdes and more than two months after Kersteen).
In this town, money walks and talks. The City Council candidate who raised the most money has won 12 out 15 races since 2003 (and all five council races in 2009). Whoever can raise the most money by the Aug. 30 primary is a good bet to be one of the two candidates to compete in the Nov. 8 general election.
The other three races don't have a primary because only one candidate filed to run against each of the incumbents, Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton and Bill Dudley.
Kornell has raised more than anyone, $25,448 through June. He drew a last minute challenge from Bill Protz, who reported raising $1,000 which came in the form of a loan to himself. But Protz, the president of the Catalina Marketing Charitable Foundation, is active with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and should have access to some deep pockets. Given some time, expect him to play catch-up.
Dudley raised $6,000 by January. He stopped at that point to see if he drew a challenge, which he did on the last day of qualifying last month. Brent Hatley, the producer of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem's morning radio show on WHPT-FM, filed to run against him. In a brief amount of time, Hatley raised $2,000 -- all coming from the Diaco family in Tampa. Dr. Joseph Diaco is the former physician of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and sits on the governing board of Tampa International Airport.
Newton reported raising $3,377. Gershom Faulkner is challenging Newton, but as of Wednesday afternoon, hadn't filed his April through June campaign finance report. Through April, Faulkner had raised $1,025.
-- Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer