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That sea turtle running for Clearwater mayor is also the top fundraiser

Elizabeth Drayer is running on behalf of the loggerhead sea turtle. But her early lead comes with a big caveat.
Clearwater mayoral candidate "Elizabeth 'Sea Turtle' Drayer," poses at her home in Clearwater in her turtle costume. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
Clearwater mayoral candidate "Elizabeth 'Sea Turtle' Drayer," poses at her home in Clearwater in her turtle costume. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Nov. 4, 2019
Updated Nov. 5, 2019

CLEARWATER ― The hare may be faster in the fable, but in city politics the tortoise is better-funded.

Or rather Elizabeth Drayer, the human lawyer running for mayor on behalf of the loggerhead sea turtle species, has raised more money for her campaign than any other candidate in the crowded 2020 Clearwater City Council races.

In just one day in September, Drayer raised $20,000 ― all from a single personal check from herself donated to her campaign, according to the latest records.

Related story: A Florida woman wants a turtle to be mayor of Clearwater. She’s not kidding.

She’s running for mayor to advocate for the “Rights of Nature” movement. Ecosystems and animals should be included in the political process via human custodians of their interests, says Drayer. Loggerhead sea turtle populations are classified as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Clearwater mayoral candidate "Elizabeth 'Sea Turtle' Drayer. [Courtesy of Elizabeth Drayer]

Her gaudy fundraising figure means little at this early stage, however. The first fundraising numbers reflect only what the candidates raised between Sept. 19, the first day of fundraising, and Sept. 30. The elections for the three open council seats aren’t until March 2020. And Drayer has pledged not to accept outside contributions, telling the Times in September that “the sea turtle cannot be bought.”

Still, not even well-connected former mayor Frank Hibbard could beat the sea turtle’s September total ― although he came close, pulling in $19,950. And unlike Drayer, most of Hibbard’s haul came from others (although he did chip in $1,000 of his own money.)

Related story: Frank Hibbard is running for mayor of Clearwater again. Here’s what he had to say about that.

Three of five council seats are on the 2020 ballot, including the mayor’s Seat 1, currently held by the term-limited George Cretekos. Under Clearwater’s city manager system, the mayor is one of five seats on the City Council.

Bill Jonson, the four-time former city council member who’s also running for the mayor’s seat, raised $6,370.20, including a $5,000 personal loan and a $20.20 cash contribution to his campaign.

Related story: He sat on Clearwater’s City Council for four terms. Now, Bill Jonson wants to be mayor.

A fourth candidate for mayor, Morton Myers, filed to run after the first fundraising report deadline, so it’s unclear how much he’s raised.

The other two seats for grabs are Seat 2, currently occupied by Jay Polglaze, who’s not running for re-election and Seat 3, which is held by Bob Cundiff.

Here’s a look at the fundraising in all three races after just one partial month of reported fundraising:

SEAT 1

Elizabeth “Sea Turtle” Drayer: $20,000, all from Drayer.

Frank Hibbard: $19,950, including $1,000 from Hibbard.

Bill Jonson: $6,370.20, including a $5,000 personal loan and a $20.20 cash contribution.

Morton Myers: No filings yet.

SEAT 2

Mark Bunker: $2,325, including $5 from himself.

Mike Mannino: $2,100, including a $500 personal loan.

Bruce Rector: $1,650, including a $300 personal loan.

Eliseo Santana Jr.: $650, including a $100 personal loan.

Lina Teixeira: $300, all from herself.

SEAT 3

Kathleen Beckman: $11,336, including $2,500 from herself.

Bud Elias: $3,600, including a $1,000 personal loan.

Bob Cundiff (incumbent): $1,500, all personal loans.

Scott Thomas: $419.12; that does not include in-kind contributions of $464.29 from himself.

Related story: The 2020 elections are already crowded in normally sleepy Clearwater. Meet the candidates.

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