SAFETY HARBOR — Mayor Joe Ayoub bested his opponents in one way even before the March 11 city election: He had garnered the most campaign donations through the last reporting period.
Ayoub had raised $7,925 as of Feb. 7. Former Mayor Andy Steingold was close behind with $7,620, and City Commissioner Nancy Besore was trailing with $3,140 — less than half that raised by the other two candidates in the mayoral race.
Ayoub's reports show some large donations. He has received six donations of $500 or more, including a $1,000 donation from Intellect Technical Solutions, a Tampa company owned by Safety Harbor resident Jim Barge. Those donations alone total $3,500, nearly half of Ayoub's total contributions.
Two companies that handle land development and real estate, National Properties Trust Inc. of Clearwater and Paradise Ventures Inc. of Safety Harbor, gave Ayoub $500 donations.
"The support I'm receiving is based on the community craving a leader who has shown a clear and predictable leadership style and who offers a clear vision for the city with proven results," Ayoub said.
More than half of Steingold's contributions have come from his own personal funds. He has donated or loaned his campaign $4,800.
"Obviously, I'm committed to my campaign. I didn't just put my name on the ballot," he said. "I don't have the developers contributing to my campaign."
Ayoub said, "I think he's bolstering (his campaign) to spend as much as me."
Maher Chevrolet of St. Petersburg gave Steingold $1,000. Greg Soulliere, Maher's executive manager, lives in Safety Harbor.
"I think part of the support (from Soulliere) is related to Joe not doing the will of the people" regarding the development of the Firmenich Citrus Center property, Steingold said.
Soulliere declined to comment.
Safety Harbor resident Steve Steinberg contributed $500 to Steingold's campaign. That was money Steinberg originally gave to Besore's campaign, but he asked for it back after Steingold filed to run.
Besore refunded Steinberg's contribution, though she was not obligated to. "I just felt it was sleazy and I didn't want the money," she said.
Among the candidates for a City Commission seat, Carlos Diaz has raised the most money thus far with $4,065. The Seat 4 candidate got $1,000 from Intellect Technical Solutions, the same company that donated to Ayoub, though both candidates said their campaigns are not connected.
Diaz's opponent, Ray Irvin, has raised $2,400 — $1,000 of it a contribution from Maher Chevrolet. The car dealership also gave $500 to Seat 3 candidate Andy Zodrow, who has raised a total of $3,860.
Irvin said he had no idea the dealership was backing a candidate in three races. But he added that he's not surprised his supporters would also support Steingold and Zodrow.
"I see the three of us as having similar visions," Irvin said.
Zodrow said there has been no formal collaboration among the three campaigns and that they are not running together, although their pamphlets have been distributed together bound by rubber bands. He said he gave some of his supporters a stack of pamphlets and believes they may have packaged his literature with that of Irvin and Steingold.
"I don't mind being associated with them, we're just not formally aligned," Zodrow said.
Zodrow's opponent Dean Harmeson has raised $1,752. Harmeson is the only candidate who hasn't received any large donations of $500 or more.
"This election should be about the best person for the job, not who can raise more money," Harmeson said.
Josh Solomon can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4155. On Twitter @JSolomonTIMES