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Latecomer to Hillsborough commission race raises money quickly

TAMPA — In her first fundraising quarter, Republican Sandy Murman pulled in more than $44,000 in contributions and loaned her campaign $16,000.

That brings her campaign war chest to more than $61,000 just a month after announcing her candidacy for the District 1 Hillsborough County Commission seat.

It also gives her a distinct financial advantage over Trey Rustmann, her opponent in the Republican primary, who has raised about $31,000 and loaned his campaign $6,000 in three quarters.

Murman is running after a six-year break from public service. She served as a state representative from 1996 to 2004.

Rustmann is a political newcomer.

"We knew that she was going to be a formidable opponent, especially from the fundraising standpoint," Rustmann said.

He said he's not discouraged, noting that Murman far outspent Ronda Storms in a failed state Senate bid in 2006.

"Our campaign right now is focused on the ground game and reaching out to voters and working hard to communicate our message," Rustmann said.

District 1 stretches from West and South Tampa to the southeastern shore of Hillsborough County.

The winner of the primary will face Democrat John Dingfelder in the general election.

Dingfelder said his latest campaign finance report, which covers April through mid July, will show a $6,000 loan to his campaign, a $6,000 in-kind contribution from himself and another $2,000 or so from donors.

Those figures might make his fundraising efforts seem anemic. But they reflect that Dingfelder essentially has to start his campaign from scratch because he withdrew from the race last month as part of legal maneuvers that started when he missed a deadline for filing elections paperwork.

A day after his withdrawal, local Democrats put Dingfelder back on the ballot. But he still has to return unused donations received during his first campaign. He had raised nearly $70,000 since announcing his candidacy in spring 2009.

"The new campaign is up and running, we've started a new fundraising quarter and we're off to the races," said Dingfelder, a former Tampa City Council member.

Dingfelder has 90 days to refund his donations.

Democrat Linda Saul-Sena, a candidate in the at-large District 5 County Commission race, is in the same boat.

She also missed a deadline for filing paperwork, withdrew from the race and was put back on the ballot by the Democratic Party.

Saul-Sena, though, filed a fundraising report for the most recent quarter that shows a cash haul of $49,035, bringing her total to $123,623.

Her Republican opponent, Ken Hagan, raised more than $20,000, bringing his total to nearly $271,000.

Fundraising reports for candidates for the District 57 state House seat, which represents South Tampa, show how badly Democrats want to snag the post that has been in the hands of Republican Faye Culp for eight years. Culp is leaving office due to term limits.

The party gave more than $46,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to Democrat Stacy Frank's campaign. Her total for the quarter is more than $93,000 and $177,000 overall.

"This is one of the key races for the House, and Stacy Frank continues to show that she is an extremely strong candidate," said Eric Jotkoff, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party. "We look forward to helping her win in November."

The district has nearly the same number of registered Democrats and Republicans.

On the Republican side of the District 57 ticket, lawyer Dana Young leads the fundraising race, bringing in more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind contributions this quarter. Her campaign total is more than $229,000.

In northern Hillsborough, County Commissioner Jim Norman continued to bring in more money than state Rep. Kevin Ambler in a race to represent Senate District 12.

With both Republicans pulling largely from the medical community, Norman raised $52,875 between April 1 and July 16, compared with $37,015 for Ambler. To date, Norman's $507,275 eclipses Ambler's $305,164.

The winner has no Democratic opponent.

Staff writer Marlene Sokol contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Latecomer to Hillsborough commission race raises money quickly 07/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 23, 2010 9:50pm]
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