The two Republican candidates vying to represent South Pinellas and South Tampa in the State Senate both raised about $70,000 in the most recent quarter, according to reports made public on Friday.
But Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who entered the race in June, has taken the competition to another level by loaning his campaign $500,000 of his own money. Thirty-six days after entering one of Florida's most competitive primary races, he has more than twice the budget of his rival, Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, and he is spending it quickly.
Brandes, whose family owns the Cox Lumber company, which is worth about $10 million, entered the race late and from the beginning of June to July 6, when the most recent fundraising cycle ended, he raised roughly $68,000. He has already spent about $265,000, much of it on paid campaign staff.
Between April and July 6, Frishe raised about $72,000, a figure he said was "pretty good." His total stands at roughly $247,000, of which he has spent $174,000.
Though he is on track to meet his campaign's fundraising goals, he said he has no intention of trying to outraise Brandes.
"I cannot write that kind of check. I don't know many people who can," Frishe said. "I know I'm going to get outspent, so that's not the issue. I just have to get my message out."
Brandes said he is holding fundraisers around the state — on Friday, he said he was in South Florida, but would not say where — and noted that he had raised almost as much as Frishe in outside contributions, but in far fewer days.
He defended his decision to give his campaign a cash infusion.
"I think I have the right to freedom of speech and I think we're simply trying to get our message out, and so to me it's the ability to enhance our message," he said.
With Brandes looking to move to the Senate, his former district is up for grabs. Newly drawn, District 68 includes an eastern portion of Pinellas County, encompassing Pinellas Park and northern parts of St. Petersburg.
Democrat Dwight Dudley — who raised almost $29,000 total — has no primary opponents. There are two Republicans in that race, Frank Farkas, who has raised about $20,000, and Daryle Hamel, who has not filed this quarter but, as of March, had raised $119.
Matthew Weidner, an independent who has raised little money, is also running for that seat.
Candidates seeking seats on the Pinellas County Commission also have submitted their latest fundraising numbers, but in a quirk of the elections process, those who mailed in their reports, rather than giving them in by hand, will not have them made publicly available until Monday.
Janet Long, a Democrat and former state legislator, is challenging incumbent Neil Brickfield, a Republican, for the District 1 seat. In her first quarter of fundraising, Long took in roughly $35,000, exceeding what she said was her goal of $30,000.
Some of her support has come from dentists, she said, who were angered by the seven-member board's 4-3 vote last year to stop adding fluoride to the county's drinking water, a decision she opposes. As of Friday, 23 of the roughly 240 people who have donated to her say that they work in dentistry.
"I've got a very big list and I'm not even a quarter of the way through it," she said.
Brickfield mailed his report in Friday, but told the Tampa Bay Times that he took in about $21,000 this quarter, bringing his total to roughly $61,000.
His colleague Nancy Bostock, a Republican who was elected to the County Commission in 2008, is also running again this year. On Friday, she told the Times that she raised roughly $8,000 this quarter, bringing her to total to just under $40,000.
Bostock's challenger, Democrat Charlie Justice, a former state representative from St. Petersburg, told the Times he raised about $11,000 for this quarter and about $14,000 overall.
Commissioner Ken Welch, a Democrat who has been on the board since 2000, took in $19,755 this quarter, bringing his total to $43,316.
He's running against Maria L. Scruggs, who has a total of $7,402 and took in $3,832 — $2,450 of that in loans she made to herself.
They will face each other in a primary Aug. 14.
Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or 727-893-8779.