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Wengay Newton still leads money race in House District 70 campaign

Candidates for Florida's House District 70, left to right: Wengay Newton, CJ Czaia, and Dan Fiorini, answer questions at a recent Tiger Bay Club forum at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club,

SCOTT KEELER i Times

Candidates for Florida's House District 70, left to right: Wengay Newton, CJ Czaia, and Dan Fiorini, answer questions at a recent Tiger Bay Club forum at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club,

15

August

Wengay Newton’s eight years on St. Petersburg City Council is paying off as he continues to raise twice as much money as his two Democratic challengers in the House District 70 primary. 

For the last reporting period of July 30 through Aug. 5, Newton has collected a total of nearly $44,000 from donors across Florida. He raised $4,800 in that period.

In recent weeks, his biggest donations have come from statewide political groups, including police, fire and other labor unions, the Florida Justice Reform Committee, the Florida Healthcare PAC and the Florida Insurance Agents for Insurance Reform.

"It’s my eight years of governance,” Newton said Monday. “I’ve been advocating and working hard for this district.”

Similarly, St. Petersburg businessman Dan Fiorini has raised more than $22,000 but $4,500 came from personal loans to his campaign. He raised only $50 in the last period, but the bulk of his contributions have been from individuals. He loaned himself $2,000 in the last period. 

“Newton’s pulling money from special interests,” Fiorini said, noting he has three fundraisers scheduled this week. “I’m pulling people’s money. I’m not worried about it.”

The legislative district stretches across parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. 

Czaia, an attorney who recently moved to St. Petersburg, has raised more than $22,000 since he entered the race in late June. But he loaned his campaign $13,500. He collected $1,100 from donors in the last period; another $3,000 cam from a personal loan.

Since he entered the race, only two of Czaia’s donations came from a St. Petersburg address. The bulk of individual donors listed addresses in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Czaia is the former leader of the Manatee County Democratic Party. 

“That’s where my strength is,” Czaia said. “I plan to dominate in Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties.” 

House District 70 is now occupied by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who is seeking a state Senate seat. The Democratic winner will face Republican Cori Fournier in November. 

Newton, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg, frequently touts endorsements from elected leaders. Those include St. Petersburg council members Jim Kennedy and Darden Rice, former council member Bill Dudley and Sarasota’s mayor and vice mayor. 

“I’m getting all the endorsements,” Newton said. “I’m overjoyed with all the love.” 

But Newton didn’t get the “love” from his hometown leader. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed Fiorini.

[Last modified: Monday, August 15, 2016 3:55pm]

    

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