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Pinellas appraiser GOP primary draws distant donations

Joe Thouvenell of Chicago backs Frank Gregoire in the Pinellas County property appraiser race.

So does Jack Rawlings of Altoona, Pa., Dennis Badger of Lexington, Ky., and James Amorin of Austin, Texas.

All are private real estate appraisers who have inked checks to the Gregoire campaign. Donors outside Pinellas have given $20,111 to Gregoire, 50 percent of his total take to date.

Pam Dubov, Gregoire's opponent in the Republican primary Aug. 26, has matched her opponent in fundraising. Over 90 percent of her donations, however, come from inside the county.

"Why does a Realtor from Daytona, or an appraiser in Wyoming, have an interest in the property appraiser's race in Pinellas County?" Dubov asked. "My base of support is from here."

The distant donations, overwhelmingly from within Florida, stem from his associations with interest groups that represent Realtors and appraisers, Gregoire said.

"In nearly all these cases, they believe that having a professional appraiser as a property appraiser is going to be an asset to the county, the state, to the profession and to the public," he said.

Gregoire is past chairman of the National Association of Realtors Appraisal Committee, the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board and the Florida Appraisal Council. He's an associate member of the Appraisal Institute, an international professional association based in Chicago.

Gene Adams, a Tallahassee lawyer and lobbyist for the Florida Association of Realtors, another group Gregoire is affiliated with, said the candidate has been very involved in appraisal-related legislation.

Adams said Gregoire's donors value the candidate's private appraisal experience, believe he's a man who'll listen and think he'll articulate their positions well. They prefer him over "some politician," he said.

State law was recently changed so that local value adjustment boards, which hear from property owners challenging their valuations, will no longer consist solely of elected officials. As chairman of the Florida Association of Realtors Public Policy Committee, Gregoire worked to pass the law.

Dubov is a 19-year veteran of the Pinellas appraiser's office. She was chief deputy for 16 years before stepping down to run in June. Her list of donors is a who's who of local politics and government.

Interim County Administrator Fred Marquis has given to Dubov. So have county Commissioners John Morroni and Susan Latvala.

Former county attorney Susan Churuti and her husband have also donated to Dubov. The County Commission fired Churuti last year in the wake of a land-deal scandal involving outgoing Property Appraiser Jim Smith.

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

Pinellas appraiser GOP primary draws distant donations 07/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 4:33pm]
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