St. Pete City Council election: Is anybody out there?
There's a growing concern that this year's St. Petersburg City Council elections will come and go without most city residents even noticing. In an off-year election with no other question on the ballot, some have even suggested turnout might dip below 10, maybe 5 percent.
If money is any indication, some candidates are doing a better job getting the word out than others. Through the most recent campaign fund raising period, which ended Friday, only three of the 11 candidates have more than $10,000 in the bank.
In District 1, longtime city lobbyist Herb Polson has built up a sizeable fundraising lead over his competitor, former City Council member Bob Kersteen. Through last Friday, Polson has raised $15,705 and spent $3,443, while Kersteen has raised $2,500 and spent $1,557. Polson's contributors include Mel Sembler, Craig Sher, former council member Paul Yingst, ex-Clearwater City Council member Bill Jonson, current or retired city officials Lee Metzger, Richard Feinber, Tish Elston, Mayor David Fischer, Mark Winn, Helen Levinem and Julie Weston.
In District 3, an open seat that has drawn the most attention, Ed Montanari and Bill Dudley are leading the fundraising pack. Montanari, who has the support of Mayor Rick Baker and outgoing District 3 representative Bill Foster has raised $18,775 while spending $8,389. Dudley, the longtime Northeast High School teacher and coach, has raised slightly less, $18,449, but has more left to spend - more than $12,000. Cathy Harrelson has raised $9,792 and has nearly $3,900 left in the bank. A fourth candidate, Cliff Gephart, missed the Friday reporting deadline and is facing $50 daily fines. He had raised $7000 through August 3.
In District 5, where two candidates are challenging incumbent Jamie Bennett, Bennett's competition -- Chris Kelly and Debra Johnson Woodard -- failed to meet the fundraising reporting deadline. Bennett has $2,950 in cash on hand.
In District 7, the two candidates have spent almost all the money they've raised so far. Gersom Faulkner has raised nearly five times his opponent Wengay Newton, $15,173 to $3,070, but Faulkner only has $3,240 left in cash on hand. Newton, however, has spent all but $50 of the money's he's raised so far -- including on several lunch trips to McDonald's and Wendy's.