Hillsborough's high-profile political races are suddenly low-budget

TAMPA — Many of them have run for office before.

But the candidates in two of Hillsborough County's most hotly contested political races have not exactly been setting records in raising cash for their campaigns.

The leading hopefuls in the race for supervisor of elections and property appraiser have brought in just more than $300,000 among the four of them. That was with barely a month to go before the election.

"Nobody will have enough in our race to win it, but no one will have too little to lose it," said former state Rep. Bob Henriquez, a Democrat competing against three others in the race for property appraiser.

That may be a hopeful assessment.

Henriquez had raised just $52,509 by the end of the last reporting period on Sept. 28. He had spent about half of it.

The good news for Henriquez: His chief rival, Republican state Sen. Ronda Storms, has raised $72,318. She rolled over two-thirds of that — $45,000 — from a Senate re-election campaign.

Both got in the race late after revelations that incumbent Republican Rob Turner had sent porn to his human resources director. Storms dispatched Turner in the Republican primary, spending much of her money in that contest.

Storms did not return a message seeking comment.

Of the two other candidates in the race, no-party candidate James DeMio has lent his campaign almost all of the approximately $30,000 in his war chest. Another no-party candidate, Rob Townsend, supplied his campaign $6,400, most of which he paid to qualify to run.

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In another countywide race, for elections supervisor, Republican state Rep. Rich Glorioso has tapped some of his Tallahassee connections, as well as supporters from his Plant City-centered district, to help boost his campaign funding. Still, he had raised just $80,255.

He said he's now seeing more small-dollar donations from around Hillsborough County, which he takes as a positive sign.

"I like the little ones because they are people who are going to vote for you," Glorioso said. "We've got a good grass-roots effort going. You never have enough to do what you would like to do and in some cases what you would need to do. We're pleased with where we are and are moving in the right direction."

Craig Latimer, the Democrat in the race and deputy to current supervisor Earl Lennard, had to survive a primary against veteran politician Tom Scott. He had raised $96,898 and spent nearly two-thirds of it.

Latimer said he's pleased about receiving roughly 600 contributions, which he takes as validation that he has helped fix an office that had been mired in controversy.

"I think it sends a really strong message that people are extremely satisfied with how we've turned that office around," he said.

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Still, the numbers in those races are modest compared with the two County Commission contests.

In the District 6 at-large County Commission race, Democratic incumbent Kevin Beckner had raised $275,769 as he faces a challenge from Republican Margaret Iuculano. A first-time candidate, the tea party-leaning Iuculano had raised $70,701 and had less than $10,000 of that left after a primary contest.

In the District 4 County Commission race to represent eastern and southern Hillsborough, incumbent Republican Al Higginbotham took in $162,296 and spent a bit more than one-third of it.

He faces a challenge from first-time candidate Mark Nash, who declared late and has raised $44,228, lending $10,000 to his election cause. No-party candidate Joy Green raised $8,054, most of it a loan to her campaign.

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Henriquez has said his goal was to reach at least $120,000 to do what he feels he needs to do to have a decent shot in the property appraiser race. That includes buying signs to sending mail pieces.

His first major mail piece, contrasting himself with Storms in an unflattering way to her, was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party.

He said he has had a robust take in the most recent period, which ran through Friday, but is not due to be reported until the end of this week. He said he thinks he'll come close to his target.

"Momentum is building for us," he said. "Especially since the major endorsements started rolling in. The wind is really starting to be at our back."

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough's high-profile political races are suddenly low-budget 10/14/12 [Last modified: Sunday, October 14, 2012 9:52pm]

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