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Despite jury verdict, Hillsborough commissioner rakes in campaign money

TAMPA — A losing verdict in a sexual discrimination lawsuit hasn't hurt Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White's ability to raise money for his 2010 re-election run.

Campaign finance reports filed Tuesday show that White, a Democrat, pulled in $17,495 in the last fundraising quarter, with some of that money coming in after the August judgment. Legal bills for the lawsuit, in which White's former aide said she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, total nearly $500,000. Taxpayers will have to cover at least some of those costs.

White has raised more than $83,465 to fund his campaign.

Newcomer Valerie Goddard, a Democrat who entered the race for White's District 3 seat in early September, raised $3,454.

Goddard said she was pleased with her take after just three weeks of campaigning. "I think we did a pretty good job for just being out of the gate," she said.

Former state Sen. Les Miller, also a Democrat challenging White, pulled in $8,807 in the quarter, bringing his total to $30,044. Miller, though, said he is unfazed by the fundraising gap.

"He's still a sitting county commissioner, and there are some people who know he's going to be there at least another year, and he's asking them for campaign contributions," Miller said.

At least 18 of the 56 donations to White's campaign came from outside Hillsborough County. Miller pointed out that most of his 194 donors gave small amounts and live in Hillsborough.

"It's not an overwhelming amount of money," Miller said. "But it's working people in the district. They don't have a lot of money to give. They don't have the $500 contributions. But they'll give you what they can, and that means if they give to you that they'll vote for you."

Contributors to White's campaign include land use attorney David Mechanik. His firm contributed $500 to White in February, and the latest report shows a $420 in-kind contribution from Mechanik. He hosted a fundraiser for White in July.

"We scheduled it months and months ago, well before any kind of hearing," Mechanik said.

As a county commissioner and former Tampa City Council member, White has always "been good in my mind," Mechanik said. "Of course, I have no knowledge of his private activities."

Mechanik also contributed $150 to Miller's campaign.

Meanwhile, first-time candidate Irene Guy body-slammed ex-wrestler and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair in the fundraising ring last quarter. Both are GOP candidates for the District 47 state House seat. Guy, a retired Verizon executive, collected more than $21,000. Blair collected just $8,710.

In November, Blair lost his bid for re-election to the County Commission to financial planner Kevin Beckner. After the election, Blair sued Beckner, contending that Beckner's campaign attacks amounted to libel. In June, Blair was arrested after a Father's Day altercation with his two sons, but the charges were dropped.

Among the contributors to Guy's campaign: steel company owner Bob Clark, who gave to Blair's County Commission runs in 2004 and 2008.

"Brian is a nice guy. And I know how the newspapers will crucify a guy if you give them half a chance," Clark said.

But Guy, he believes, is more qualified for the job because her work for Verizon took her often to Tallahassee.

"She's had a relationship with all the players up there at one time or another," he said.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Despite jury verdict, Hillsborough commissioner rakes in campaign money 10/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 12:00am]
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