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New Hillsborough commission candidate quickly plays catch-up

TAMPA — It has taken a little more than two months for Janet Lee Dougherty to catch up on the fundraising front with two fellow Republicans competing to be the next District 4 Hillsborough County commissioner.

At the same time, the board's two sitting commissioners, Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham, continue to raise the sort of money aimed at warding off serious competition in their countywide races.

Dougherty, an environmental consultant, has raised $41,600 in a little more than two months of campaigning, a figure that includes a $5,000 loan she made to her campaign. She now has a narrow fundraising lead over retiring Tampa police Detective Rick Cochran and current Hillsborough County School Board member Stacy White in the race to represent eastern Hillsborough. She has spent less than $3,000 of that.

"Basically, I'm a business person and I appeal to people in business," Dougherty said. "I know a lot of people."

The candidates are raising money under new rules that went into effect two months ago allowing contributions in county races of up to $1,000, from a $500 maximum for each election before. The new rules require monthly reporting.

One pool of donations Dougherty has managed to tap that hasn't always been active in local races is from the maritime industry. She has served as a longtime board member of the Propeller Club ­— Port of Tampa, an association of maritime-related businesses and groups. Before starting her own organic recycling business, she also worked with CF Industries, a fertilizer company that relies on the port.

Cochran continues to enjoy support from fellow police officers, and from law-enforcement political action committees from across the state. He raised $13,926 in the past month to take his total to $40,166, which he says is in line with his goal to this point. He has spent less than a quarter of that.

Cochran said he and a group of police officer friends and family members are concentrating on grass roots campaigning, having visited more than 4,000 homes in door-to-door canvassing. He emphasizes his work in law enforcement and Air Force service to those who open their doors.

"I'm actually very, very satisfied," he said. "I've got a plan, and I'm staying with my plan."

White said he's gearing up for door-to-door campaigning. He, too, said his war chest is about where he wanted to it to be at this point, having raised $4,880 in the past month to take his total to $39,261. He has spent just more than $5,000.

White said he feels many people in eastern Hillsborough County already know him as a reliable conservative through his work on the School Board.

"I always feel like I need to work a little more," White said. "But I feel like I'm in a good position in this race."

The winner of the Republican primary in August will take on Democrat Donna Lee Fore, the owner of a mobile auto glass company, who has raised few dollars and is campaigning in a district that leans heavily Republican. She has raised just more than $1,400, almost all of it a personal loan.

In the county's other competitive race, Higginbotham, a Republican who is term-limited out from returning to District 4, is seeking an at-large seat.

He has slowed his money-raising pace, taking in just $7,500 in the past month. But he has topped $150,000 and has spent less than $12,000 of it.

Higginbotham is facing Republican challengers, including Robin Lester, a financial consultant from South Tampa who appear to be struggling to attract campaign financing. Lester has raised $4,471, more than half of it a loan from herself, and has spent almost all of it. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

Don Kruse, a beauty school owner and the other Republican in that race, reported no donations. In past campaigns, he has generally not been an aggressive fundraiser.

The winner of the Republican primary faces Democratic Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern, who reported $1,125 in contributions in the past month. She now has raised $40,255 and has spent less than a quarter of it.

Finally, Hagan is not letting off in his bid to scare off a challenger in his countywide race. He raised $28,195 last month, more than anyone else running for the commission, despite having no opposition. His war chest stands at $268,155 and he has spent just more than $5,000.

New Hillsborough commission candidate quickly plays catch-up 12/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 11:51pm]
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