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Name recognition, not money, paramount in Tarpon Springs elections

TARPON SPRINGS — Candidates always need monetary contributions when running for office. But the candidates for the Tarpon Springs City Commission say in small-town elections, whom you know is just as important.

The five candidates running in the March 8 election submitted their required campaign treasurer reports last week.

Townsend Tarapani, who faces Crissy Cladakis for Seat 1, leads all candidates, having raised $7,365. Tarapani has spent $4,920.02. Cladakis has raised $1,825.16 and has spent $924.56.

"To me, it's more about the amount of support I have raised," Tarapani, 25, said. "I feel very good about that, but it hasn't come easy. It's been some hard work going door to door, business to business, talking to them about their concerns and my ideas."

Cladakis, 38, said she is pleased with the amount of money she has raised "because I haven't asked for one donation."

"All monies received have been given voluntarily, which shows their confidence in me as their representative," Cladakis said.

Incumbent Susan Slattery is trying to fend off challenges from Jeffrey Antous and Tim Keffalas to win a second term as the Seat 2 commissioner. Slattery has raised $3,910 and spent $3,029.93. But the amount of money raised isn't the main factor, she said.

"In Tarpon Springs, it's not about how much you raise, it's about who you know," Slattery, 46, said. "You need the money for the literature and to get the word out, but in Tarpons Springs, it's who you know and name recognition."

Keffalas has raised $4,820 and spent $4,517.02 thus far. During the last reporting cycle, which was Jan. 29 thru Feb. 11, Keffalas raised only $150. He said he contributed the bulk of the campaign money.

"I'm not doing a lot of fundraising," Keffalas, 56, said. "In fact, some people have called me up and offered. We are using mostly our own funds. That way, I'm not obligated to anyone."

Antous, 58, has raised $2,666 and spent $1,082.32. During the reporting cycle of Jan. 29 through Feb. 11, only $10 of the $661 he raised was from Tarpon Springs residents.

"I'm running a grass roots campaign," Antous said. "I hate taking money from people with the way the economy is."

The majority of the candidates' spending has been on signs and mailings. With the increase in mail balloting, the money is needed earlier in the election cycle.

In Tarpon Springs, 5,695 ballots were mailed out to voters. According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office, as of Feb. 22, 1,298 of those have been returned.

While there are 16,327 registered voters in Tarpon Springs, turnout is usually sparse. Only 4,125 people voted during last year's mayoral election, with 1,251 of the ballots cast through the mail.

Contact Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Name recognition, not money, paramount in Tarpon Springs elections 02/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 7:32pm]

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