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Alex Sink reaches outside Pinellas for congressional campaign contributions

Alex Sink has moved to Pinellas County to run for Congress, but she has largely turned elsewhere to finance her campaign.

A Tampa Bay Times analysis shows about 83 percent of the Democratic congressional candidate's campaign cash has come from outside of Pinellas.

That's a contrast to the two leading Republican candidates, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters, who both raised most of their money from inside the county.

Although the vast majority of Sink's money comes from outside the county, she has raised more than $155,000 in Pinellas — which is more than Peters in terms of dollars. Sink's campaign war chest — more than $1.1 million as of Dec. 25 — dwarfs the others even as her Pinellas contributions make up a smaller portion of her overall take.

"Alex Sink is tremendously proud and grateful for the outpouring of support her campaign has received from Pinellas residents," campaign manager Ashley Walker said in a statement. "It's another sign that Alex's message of bringing Republicans and Democrats together to solve problems is resonating with Pinellas families."

The Times' review shows that 43 percent of Jolly's money came from outside Pinellas, compared to 41 percent for Peters.

Within Pinellas, Sink raised $155,885; Jolly raised $185,232.08 (57 percent of his total); and Peters raised $88,350 (59 percent of her total). All these figures are for campaign reports through Dec. 25 and include contributions from individuals and political committees.

Peters said many Republican donors are holding back until they know who will be the nominee. Three Republican candidates are battling to win Tuesday's primary. Sink is the lone Democrat.

"That just means that once that primary is over, you'll see the money is going to come in," said Peters, 52, a state representative from South Pasadena.

Republican candidate Mark Bircher, 60, wasn't included in this analysis because his campaign is largely self-financed. Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby says he has several contributions from around the country; but they were for smaller amounts that did not have to be listed in campaign reports.

Referring to Sink's out-of-Pinellas contributions, Peters said, "That doesn't surprise me at all. Her base is not in Pinellas."

Peters added, "I think it's important to get a lot of local support. I think that says something when the local folks get behind you."

Jolly spokeswoman Sarah Bascom: "She is not from Pinellas, so it is no surprise that a majority of her money is not from Pinellas. In fact, it begs the question that does she even really live in Pinellas now?"

Sink, 65, has been a resident of Thonotosassa in eastern Hillsborough County and is a former Florida chief financial officer, as well as the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor. Her statewide campaigns have given her contacts and donors across the state. After deciding to run for Congress in Pinellas late last year, she moved into a rented condo in Pinellas County's Feather Sound area.

She has far outpaced the others in collecting campaign cash. As of Dec. 25, she raised more than $1.1 million total, compared to $388,450 for Jolly, $169,926 for Peters, $58,443 for Bircher and $25,742 for Overby. Some of these figures include loans.

Among the tidbits in the data: Jolly, 41, received a $2,000 contribution from the Congressman Bill Young Campaign Committee on Dec. 9 — nearly two months after Young's death. An aide to Jolly said the committee's campaign treasurer is allowed to make that contribution, and did. Jolly is a former general counsel and aide to Young.

The candidates are seeking the seat left vacant by Young's death in October. The winner of Tuesday's Republican primary will face Sink and Overby in the March 11 general election.

How we crunched the numbers

For this story, the Times identified contributors who live inside and outside of Pinellas. But the 13th Congressional District does not cover the whole county — it stretches from the county's southern tip to Dunedin and leaves out north Pinellas areas such as East Lake and Tarpon Springs, and also a wide swath of downtown and southern St. Petersburg. Therefore, even some Pinellas contributors live outside the district. The Times did not include loans and contributions from the candidates themselves. It also did not include the candidates "unitemized contributions" because there is no way to track where they originated. And $11,862 the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee contributed to Sink in cash and in-kind contributions also was not included.

Alex Sink reaches outside Pinellas for congressional campaign contributions 01/07/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 10:00am]
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