Audrey Henson, Republican candidate for the east-central Pinellas state House District 60, is starting off her campaign with a substantial campaign fund, but most of It is from just four sources – the state Republican Party and three wealthy St. Petersburg donors.
They are Steve Dehmlow, chairman of an Illinois-based composite materials firm, and retirees Eileen Pater and Greg Pater, former head of a document service.
Henson filed last year to run for the St. Petersburg-based District 13 congressional seat but switched in June to the state House race.
In December, while she was still running for Congress, Dehmlow contributed $150,000 and the Paters $100,000 to a newly formed federal PAC.
In June, just after Henson switched to the state House race, the PAC gave $210,000 to her new state political committee, Friends of Audrey Henson, and then closed.
Henson has received $28,000 in state party assistance. The total, $238,000, amounts to nearly 90 percent of the total $268,300 raised by her campaign and Friends of Audrey Henson.
Henson said her fundraising “show how much excitement there is for my candidacy and … I have dozens of supporters, not just three.”
She said she got to know the Praters and Dehmlow through her career as owner of a local excavation company and community activities.
Neither Dehmlow nor Greg Prater could be reached for comment through phone and social media messages this week.
Henson’s Democratic opponent, Lindsay Cross, noted that she has more than a thousand campaign contributors, and said, “The fact that she jumped from another race, doesn’t live in the district and has support from just a few large donors shows Republicans think they can buy the election.”