Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

Reports: Cretekos has raised 50 times more money than opponent in Clearwater mayoral race

CLEARWATER — The current race for Clearwater mayor has always been cast as a David-and-Goliath contest between a well-known candidate and an underdog. But campaign finance reports released Friday make it clear just how wide a gap there is.

The lesser-known candidate, political newcomer Christine Marketos-Cuomo, has raised about $1,300 from supporters. Her opponent George Cretekos has raised $62,680 — about 50 times more — from his supporters. That has enabled him to blanket Clearwater with yard signs and political mailers.

The election is Tuesday. Clearwater voters will choose their next mayor and will vote on three city referendum questions.

"I don't know why my opponent is raising so much money. I don't know what he needs it for," said Marketos-Cuomo, 63, a retired federal worker. "I'm out here campaigning. I don't go around and ask people in businesses for money. I just listen to their concerns and problems."

Cretekos, 64, a City Council member and former congressional aide for U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, sees his fundraising differently. "It just shows the support and respect that I have in the community," he said. The list of his backers reads like a "who's who" of the politically active in Clearwater.

The new campaign finance reports tallied up donations to both candidates through Thursday.

According to those reports, Marketos-Cuomo has a campaign war chest of $2,365. About half of that, $1,035, was money she loaned herself, and $1,330 was donated by six supporters — three Clearwater residents, one Oldsmar resident, a Clearwater deli on U.S. 19, and Mazzaro's Italian Market in St. Petersburg.

According to his report, Cretekos' campaign has raised $62,680 and has spent about $30,000 on expenses like signs, printing and postage for fliers. Cretekos said any campaign funds that aren't used before Tuesday's election will be returned to donors.

Influential locals like attorney Ed Armstrong, real estate executive Lee Arnold and restaurateur Frank Chivas contributed the maximum $500 each to Cretekos' campaign. So did the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Cretekos also received donations from former Mayor Brian Aungst, Hooters founder Ed Droste, Palm Pavilion owner Ken Hamilton, construction executive Alan Bomstein and former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli. He got contributions from Sand Key activists JoEllen Farnham and Cynthia Remley, Clearwater Beach activists Jerry Murphy and David Little, and mainland neighborhood activists Isay Gulley, Shelley Kuroghlian and Howard Warshauer. Campaign checks came from retirees, Realtors, lawyers and business people.

Money can make a big difference in Clearwater elections, partly because more people are voting by mail before Election Day and candidates must reach mail voters with advertising and information weeks before the election.

In the last Clearwater municipal election, in 2010, the two best-funded candidates won two City Council seats. Paul Gibson and Bill Jonson beat out political newcomers who were running low-budget, grass roots campaigns.

Gibson, the only incumbent that year, raised $12,300, several times as much as his challenger. Jonson, a former councilman, raised about $20,000 — three times as much as his three rivals combined.

In 2010, nearly three-fourths of Clearwater's roughly 8,000 votes came from mail-in ballots. Both winners, the only candidates who could afford to mail out political fliers, performed better in the mail ballots than they did among Election Day voters.

So far this year, 9,767 Clearwater residents have voted by mail in advance of Tuesday's election. They're either voting in the mayor's race or the Republican presidential primary or both. So far, turnout is about 15 percent, said Nancy Whitlock, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.

Comments
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. That’s what 19-year-old Ce...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

LEXINGTON, Va. - Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening - nearly 200 miles from the White House - when the choice presented itself.Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned...
Published: 06/24/18
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18