DUNEDIN — Statistics have long shown that when it comes to elections, it's typically the incumbent who has the advantage.
But Dunedin's nonpartisan mayoral race has defied science.
Former Mayor Bob Hackworth has surpassed the incumbent, Mayor Dave Eggers, in fundraising. He has about $50,000 to Eggers' $18,370 — a nearly $32,000 divide. Hackworth's total includes $17,800 he loaned himself, while Eggers dropped $500 into his own piggybank.
Hackworth's most recent finance report wasn't available Friday, but the publishing firm owner provided figures indicating he has spent all but about $300 of his funds. His last financial report, filed Oct. 17, showed he had spent more than $15,000 at that point on mailers and postage, $12,500 on polling and consulting services, and $1,823 for signs. He also walked neighborhoods and enlisted volunteers to reach out to absentee voters through phone banking.
Moving this year's election from March to coincide with the November general election has created "an interesting dynamic," Hackworth said. "The resources that are necessary to communicate with all these new voters who don't generally vote during a traditional municipal election means you have to reach three times as many people."
Eggers, who prefers to rely on door-knocking and meet-and-greets, has spent about $11,000, most of it on business cards, two mailers, a campaign flyer, a consultant to help design campaign literature and compile voter lists, and a few hundred signs.
Hackworth has run for city, county and federal office, Eggers said, "so his name's been out there. So as far as name recognition, that certainly evens the playing field. I don't think I have any advantage being the incumbent in this case."
Hackworth was elected to the City Commission in 2002 and served seven years, including one term as mayor, before he went on to run unsuccessfully for Congress and Pinellas County Commission. The Dunedin High graduate says he wants his old job back to fix budgeting, policy and transparency problems he sees at City Hall. Campaign priorities include public safety, low taxes and preserving quality of life.
Eggers, a Dunedin resident since 1988 and commissioner since 2003, succeeded Hackworth as mayor. His campaign has focused on his experience, his team-building skills, and moves by the City Commission as a whole that created cost savings and improved infrastructure. The commercial real estate broker's campaign priorities include fixing flooding problems and warding off overdevelopment.
Eggers raised the least of any 2012 Dunedin candidate, typically receiving smaller individual contributions in the $25 to $50 range. Donors who contributed the $500 maximum allowed by law included Eggers' father; Donald S. Jones, a resident at Mease Manor in Dunedin, where Eggers sits on the board; Sarah Guthrie, board chair of JT Walker Industries, a Clearwater manufacturing company; Gold's Gym; and the Florida Realtors Association, whose Pinellas County arm endorsed Eggers.
Though the city race is nonpartisan, Eggers received maximum contributions from Direct Marketing Southeast, a private company, and the Florida Leadership Fund political action committee, entities controlled by Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, who also donated $100 under his own name.
Eggers also received support from the owners of several area family-owned businesses.
As of Oct. 17, Hackworth's finance reports showed strong backing from the Florida Professional Firefighters Association and Dunedin Firefighters Association, which donated $250 each, and a combined contribution of $140 from two leaders of the city's fire union. The Dunedin fire union endorsed Hackworth.
Contributors who gave $500 included Commissioner Julie Scales' husband, David Scales; developer Joe Kokolakis; former Commissioner Deborah Kynes, an attorney and Dunedin Fine Art Center advisory board member whose husband, Allen Kynes, also donated $250; and four companies tied to restaurateur Peter Kreuziger.
Several board and advisory members to the Dunedin Fine Art Center also contributed to Hackworth's war chest.
The art center recently asked the city to pitch in $500,000 toward a grant to expand the organization's city-owned building. Also, the city is planning improvements to the Dunedin Marina waterfront, near properties owned by Kreuziger and Kokolakis.
The challenger has also raised more money than the incumbent in Dunedin's race for Commission Seat 3.
As of Friday, political newcomer Heather Gracy's supporters had contributed $22,400 to her campaign. She loaned herself $100 and has spent $21,535.
Commissioner David Carson has raised $21,810 — $10,000 of which he loaned himself — and has spent $16,520.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.