There is no official record book for such things, but the rumbling in local political circles is that Largo Mayor Pat Gerard already has raised more money than any other Democratic candidate for Pinellas County Commission.
Gerard,who is running for the District 2 seat currently held by Republican Norm Roche, had raked in $109,409 by June 27, the second-highest total of any local candidate to date, according to an updated fundraising report submitted last week to the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office.
That means she's on pace to build a war chest comparable to what popular (and usually Republican) incumbents have raised in past commission races, according to a review of campaign finance reports dating back to 2000. Gerard is well ahead of the nearly $98,000 that fellow Democrat (and former state Rep.) Janet Long raised in her successful 2012 bid to unseat Republican incumbent Neil Brickfield, who raised $156,000 for that contest.
Given how early it is in the campaign, "We're pretty excited about that," said Tom Alte, Gerard's campaign manager.
Also working in Gerard's favor: She doesn't have a primary race to worry about because no other Democrat qualified for the countywide seat, so she can save resources for the general election. The primary is Aug. 26.
Roche has a formidable primary opponent in state Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater, who so far has raised $122,705, the most of any local candidate.
Roche's tally so far: $18,115.
Gerard sends regular emails to supporters that start with a personal salutation and usually feature an embedded link to her campaign website's contribution page. Some of the missives have criticized the fact that much of Hooper's money has come from donors outside of Pinellas.
Hooper said it appears that Gerard has hit a fundraising record for a local Democratic candidate.
"She's working very hard," Hooper said. "Good for her. That's what it takes."
But he added, "I take the outlook that right now Pat Gerard is not my opponent. I have to focus on my primary race first … and if the voters are kind, Ms. Gerard will be my focus. We'll reload and reach out to everybody I can possibly reach out to. I don't care where they live, but a lot of it will be local."
Engineering firm gives $25,000 to Greenlight committee
The Friends of Greenlight political committee has landed another big corporate donation.
Parsons Brinckerhoff, a multinational engineering and design consulting firm based in New York, gave $25,000 to the group pushing to increase Pinellas County's sales tax by 1 cent to expand mass transit.
Parsons has an office in Tampa that employs about 100 workers, many of whom live in Pinellas, said George Walton, a senior vice president and Southeast regional manager. Walton, who is among those Pinellas residents, lived in Baltimore for years and used that city's light rail system daily.
"We're a firm believer in transportation and mobility and the importance to the community and its benefit to the economy," Walton said.
He acknowledged the company could benefit as a potential bidder for contracts on the project if the referendum passes.
"We are a transportation infrastructure firm, so we'd be interested," he said.
The donation accounted for a large chunk of the $31,580 the Greenlight committee raised in the first three weeks of June. The group has raised $562,540 so far.
The opposition group, No Tax for Tracks, raised $105 in the same period, bringing its tally to $31,656.
If the tax increase is approved by voters on Nov. 4, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will use the revenue to expand bus service by 65 percent and build a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.