Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Raulerson taking no chances in state House, District 58 race

PLANT CITY

Republican Dan Raulerson isn't taking chances in the state House District 58 race, even though his opponent lost the backing of Hillsborough County Democrats and hasn't raised any campaign funds beyond a single $100 donation.

Raulerson's opponent, Democrat Jose Vazquez, vowed to suspend his campaign two weeks ago after a dispute with party leaders. His name is still on the ballot, though.

Even Plant City Mayor Michael Sparkman couldn't help but marvel at Raulerson's apparent lopsided advantage: "He's never had an opponent. I wonder what it's like to not have an opponent?" the mayor said this week.

So given Raulerson's leg up does he really need to rally 10 campaign volunteers every Saturday morning to go door to door, glad-handing voters and dropping off literature? That has been his routine since May.

And why spend upward of $5,000 to $15,000 to produce a TV political ad and another $10,000 to broadcast it on Fox, CNN, MSNBC and Bay News 9? The first of two such ads is set to run this weekend in eastern Hillsborough.

At this point, couldn't he just cruise toward November?

"I mean he's running against a guy that doesn't even have the support of his own party and served time in prison," remarked Michael Gibbons, associate professor of political science at the University of South Florida.

The race might seem a foregone conclusion, but there's good reason to keep pushing ahead, political experts and Raulerson's campaign advisers say. They cite three main reasons:

First, he's running in a redrawn political district that tilts Democratic: District 58's electorate runs 40 percent Democrat to 36 percent Republican. The remaining 24 percent are independents, which means Raulerson needs to win over more independents than his opponent.

Second, he's not well-known outside Plant City, where he served five years on the Plant City Commission, including two years as mayor.

And third, conventional wisdom suggests that candidates campaign hard to Election Day to avoid getting hurt by last-minute stunts and ad blitzes.

"There are always variables that you can't know about at the front end," lobbyist and campaign strategist Matthew Blair of Capitol Consulting said. "On election night, you want to know that you have done everything possible to convey your message, regardless of whatever your opponent is doing or not doing."

In some respects Vazquez, 38, a security specialist, seems like the ultimate political wildcard.

He stepped into the spotlight four years ago when he launched a political campaign from behind bars. He was serving time on a felony conviction when he filed to run as a write-in candidate for the state House.

Then, three weeks ago, he made headlines after feuding with Hillsborough Democrats when the party withdrew its support for him. Vazquez vowed to quit the race, then changed his mind saying he'd stop campaigning but keep his name on the ballot.

Vazquez's campaign is broke. Worse than that, it's in debt.

State records show that most of the $2,205 he received since May came from personal loans. He accepted one donation: a $100 check from Tampa real estate agent Ignatius DeMio. Meanwhile, he has spent more than $6,000 as of Oct. 12.

Raulerson, 55, an accountant, has raised more than $157,000 and spent about $94,500, records show.

With 11 days until the election, he's still spending.

This weekend will see the first of two TV ads in District 58. Neither one attacks his opponent but lays out Raulerson's conservative philosophy.

The ads are a smart move, says Gibbons.

"One of the things advertisers know is that if you can repeat the brand name time and time again it sticks with people," he said. "Sometimes you see the same ad one after another. That's not a mistake. Advertisers know if you can repeat the message it can become imprinted in your memory."

Raulerson will purchase time for 300 30-second spots on Bay News 9, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

He won't reveal how much he paid, but local experts say political ads typically range $15,000 to $25,000, including production costs. That's to show the ads 300 times on the major cable news channels.

"In broadcast TV, those costs are higher because you're covering the whole market," said Debbie Torres, general sales manager at Viamedia Television, which sells advertising for Verizon FiOS and cable provider Knology Inc. "With cable, you can direct your message to a specific audience."

Raulerson and his team offered a simple explanation for the ads: He's not well-known outside Plant City.

He figures that since May he has hit 7,000 homes going door-to-door, from Temple Terrace to the Polk County line and north of State Road 60 to the Pasco line.

"Ninety percent of the time when you go door-to-door, they don't know you," he said. "That's true with almost any candidate. That's why it's important to get out and meet voters one-on-one, to make an impression."

Even in Plant City, his home turf, the former mayor found that most folks simply don't keep up with local issues and don't know the candidates until they show up on their doorstep. TV will offer him a chance to reach a bigger audience in a shorter time.

He'll find out next week if they're making an impression. He plans to do more door-to-door canvassing next weekend and might also hit a few neighborhoods after work. He figures he has lost 20 pounds from all the campaigning.

"You can't take anything for granted," Blair said. "In the end, you want to know that you did everything you could."

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2454.

. About District 58

This is a newly created House district that encompasses much of its predecessor, District 62. It includes Plant City and much of Hillsborough County's suburbs along the Interstate 4 corridor. The district includes Mango, Thonotosassa and part of Temple Terrace. It's bounded by Polk and Pasco counties.

Raulerson taking no chances in state House, District 58 race 10/25/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 25, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  2. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  3. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  4. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  5. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]