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First-time candidates lead St. Petersburg mayoral pack in fundraising

ST. PETERSBURG — First-time candidates Deveron Gibbons and Scott Wagman continue to lead the money race for mayor, according to the latest batch of campaign finance reports released Friday.

But the historic fundraising pace set in the first three months of 2009 has drastically slowed.

After raising a record $115,625 in the first three months of the year, Gibbons raised an additional $41,030 from April through June, bringing his total to $156,655.

Wagman, meanwhile, raised an additional $35,960 in the second quarter and loaned his campaign an additional $40,000. Overall, he has raised $89,536 and loaned his campaign $60,000.

"Fundraising is a critical part of the campaign, but it doesn't always mean you are going to win," Gibbons said Friday. "You have to work hard and get your message out."

But the fundraising gap between Gibbons, Wagman and the other eight mayoral candidates is apparent.

Gibbons has started airing a television ad touting his endorsement by Gov. Charlie Crist and entered July with more than $100,000 in cash on hand — close to three times as much as Wagman and former City Council member Bill Foster. And nine times as much as Kathleen Ford.

Wagman's campaign, meanwhile, already launched two detailed mail pieces and a followup automated telephone call.

Wagman, who made millions when he sold his family paint company in 1998, used the new numbers to take a jab at the four former or current council members running: Ford, Foster, Jamie Bennett and Larry Williams.

"None of them have raised any money," Wagman said. "Their strategy is to put signs up … and they're going to knock on doors. They don't have any ability to communicate with the city as a whole because the public isn't financing them."

For the second quarter, Foster actually raised more than any other candidate, collecting $44,801. Overall, Foster has raised $63,686.

At least $6,250 in his most recent report came from statewide Police Benevolent Associations. Foster has been endorsed by the local Sun Coast Police Benevolent Associations.

Former City Council member Larry Williams, in his first full three months of campaigning, raised $21,435.

Council member Jamie Bennett raised an additional $11,950 and loaned his campaign $5,000. He has raised $41,862 overall.

Former City Council member Kathleen Ford, who had a slight lead in a St. Petersburg Times poll of 600 voters last month, continues to appear to be struggling to raise money.

Through June 30, she has raised a total of $24,784, fifth among the candidates. She brushed off the numbers.

"Folks still remember me," she said. "Folks know me and they trust me."

Candidates across the board discussed fundraising difficulties in the current economy.

"It's like pulling teeth," Foster said. "In this climate, I am almost reluctant to ask for money because I know how hard (people) work for it."

In some cases, he is asking people who cannot contribute money to volunteer.

Bennett said the candidates knew it was going to be difficult. They also knew Gibbons and Wagman would be playing on a different financial field despite the fact they have less name recognition than the former council members.

"At this point, (a) we knew they were going to be out there, and (b) I knew I probably was never going to be in that realm," Bennett said.

How they stack up

CandidateMoney raised fromMoney raised overall
from April 1-June 30

Deveron Gibbons, 36, corporate executive$41,030$156,655

Scott Wagman, 56, real estate investor$75,960$149,535.76

Bill Foster, 46, former council member$44,801$63,686

Jamie Bennett, 56, City Council member$16,949$41,862

Kathleen Ford, 52, former council member$15,459$24,784

Larry Williams, 64, former council member$21,435$21,735

Ed Helm, 64, political activist$11,405$11,405

John Warren, 60, restaurateur$1,790$1,790

Paul Congemi, 52, advocate for homeless$250$475

Richard Eldridge, 47, premed student$415$416

*Includes personal loans, but not in-kind contributions Source: Campaigns

Fast facts

The mayor's race

Key dates: Absentee ballots go out Wednesday. The primary is Sept. 1. The general election is Nov. 3.

On the Web: For more about the candidates, go to tampabay.com/mayor.

First-time candidates lead St. Petersburg mayoral pack in fundraising 07/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:35pm]

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