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Campaign contributions flow mainly for sitting Hillsborough commissioners

Published Oct. 15, 2013

It was another strong campaign fundraising quarter for Hillsborough County Commission candidates who already sit on the board.

For other candidates, it's been slower sledding.

Sitting commissioner Al Higginbotham, seeking to move to an at-large seat from his current District 4 post representing largely eastern Hillsborough, pulled in another $45,976. He's been going pretty much at that clip for each of the three quarters he has been campaigning and has raised $134,441 total. He's spent just more than $10,000 of that, so he's banking the vast majority of it so far.

There are a couple of interesting notes about his contributions so far. He's received about $3,000 from members of Tampa Bay's Indian-American community since helping land the Bollywood Oscars in Tampa for next summer. Higginbotham said his ties to the Indian community in Tampa actually date back a few years as he's worked to forge ties, including through helping secure venues for cricket tournaments.

"This happened long before there was a Bollywood even on the horizon," he said.

Another note: Higginbotham is feeling the love from agencies regulated by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission now that he's a full-fledged member of that board and not just an alternate. Higginbotham has pulled in at least $5,000 from cab and ambulance company owners or their affiliates, mainly at a fundraiser Sept. 30. That's not including a couple of individuals such as lawyer Steve Anderson and public affairs consultant Todd Pressman, who have ambulance companies among their clients but also represent others who interact with the County Commission. Both gave him the $500 max.

Higginbotham said the fundraiser had been scheduled since August and that contributions are not necessarily connected to him now serving as a full-time PTC board member.

The race has attracted two new Republican candidates in the past quarter, beauty school owner Don Kruse and financial consultant Robin Lester, who have not reported raising any money yet.

Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern, the lone Democrat in the race, reported raising just $6,015. That takes her total to $38,365 and she's got more than $30,000 of that still in the bank.

In the Commission's other competitive race, to replace Higginbotham in District 4, Republican Tampa Police detective Rick Cochran set the pace this quarter, largely on the strength of donations from police union political action committees from the region and state. He reported raising $14,790. Of that, $6,750 came from police union PACs. Many of his other contributors are police officers. His total stands at $24,655, with a quarter of that spent.

Republican School board member Stacy White brought in another $7,200 to take his total to $28,631, and he's spent almost none of it.

Another Republican, Janet Lee Dougherty, an environmental consultant, just got in the race and reported lending her campaign $5,000. Donna Lee Fore, the lone Democrat who is another recent entrant, has lent her campaign just more than $1,000.

Meanwhile, Republican Ken Hagan continues to amass cash despite attracting no opposition so far as he seeks reelection to one of the board's other at-large seats. He grabbed another $40,150 to take his total to $214,560. He's hoarding almost all of it so far.