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Adam Hattersley takes fundraising lead in congressional race

Both Hattersley and his Democratic primary opponent, Alan Cohn, raised more during the quarter than Republican incumbent Ross Spano.
State Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview, speaks before volunteers with the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action outside the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Hattersley has jumped into the lead in fundraising for the congressional seat currently held by Ross Spano.
State Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview, speaks before volunteers with the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action outside the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Hattersley has jumped into the lead in fundraising for the congressional seat currently held by Ross Spano. [ [LAWRENCE MOWER | Tampa Bay Times] ]
Published Feb. 5, 2020
Updated Feb. 5, 2020

In the hotly contested East Hillsborough-Lakeland congressional race, Democratic challenger Adam Hattersley jumped into the lead in fundraising in the last quarter of 2019.

Hattersley raised $159,877 during the three-month period, leaving him with $171,314 cash in the bank.

But both Hattersley and his Democratic primary opponent, Alan Cohn, raised more during the quarter than the Republican incumbent they hope to challenge, Ross Spano.

For the campaign overall, Spano has raised more than half a million dollars, but heavy spending and debts left him with less cash than either of the two Democrats. The spending and debts include $38,000 on legal fees as Spano faces investigations over alleged campaign finance improprieties; and $59,500 from loans Spano made to his campaign during the 2018 race when he won the seat.

Cohn raised $117,644 during the quarter, finishing with $85,312 in cash.

Spano raised $108,713 during the quarter, finishing with $124,684 in cash, but debts of $83,198.

The source of the money Spano loaned his 2018 campaign is the subject of a U.S. Justice Department investigation. Spano apparently borrowed money from friends, then loaned the proceeds to his campaign saying it came from his personal funds, a violation of campaign finance law.

Spano reported $15,860 paid during the quarter to Berke Farah, a Washington law firm specializing in campaign finance law, and $22,186 owed to Holland & Knight.

In the Republican-leaning district, Democrats hope Spano’s legal problems will give them a chance to unseat him.

Jenkins has strong first month

Democrat Julie Jenkins, facing a difficult race against state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, is pleased with her campaign’s first month.

Democrat Julie Jenkins, facing a difficult race against state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, is pleased with her campaign’s first month.
Democrat Julie Jenkins, facing a difficult race against state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, is pleased with her campaign’s first month. [ Courtesy of Julie Jenkins ]

Jenkins said she’ll report raising $43,294 from 259 donors since filing Jan. 2. That’s after holding a Jan. 21 campaign kickoff event that drew some 250 attendees.

“I’m in it to win it, and I think this shows the people of the district are hungry for new leadership,” she said.

But Toledo won’t easily be denied a third term in the South Tampa-based district.

State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa.
State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa.

Toledo had raised $210,207, with about $122,000 cash on hand, through December, and said she added another $40,000 in January – almost as much as Jenkins despite having to stop fundraising when the legislative session began Jan. 13.

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Complaint against Cruz dismissed

The state Ethics Commission has found no probable cause for a complaint against state Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, that arose from her bitterly fought 2018 campaign to unseat former Republican Sen. Dana Young.

State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa
State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]

During the campaign, the two traded allegations of unethical behavior. Cruz was accused of not living in the district of the state House seat she previously held, but responded that her legal residence was a rental home in the district, rather than her husband’s home outside it, and produced documentation.

The complaint, however, alleged that Cruz’s personal financial disclosure forms were false because they showed no liability for a rental lease. A commission investigator found that Cruz had no lease but rented the house month-to-month.

No press allowed at GOP meeting

The Hillsborough County Republican Party’s Feb. 13 monthly meeting will feature Sidney Powell, lawyer for Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian election interference.

Powell, a minor celebrity on the right, has written a book alleging corruption in the U.S. Justice Department and appears frequently on Fox News. Since hiring her, Flynn is seeking to withdraw his plea.

But don’t expect to read about her speech or see news snippets.

“This is a Private Event. No Media or Outside Reporting Agencies will be authorized entry,” the party announced.

Long-time GOP regulars say they can’t remember a previous time a local party meeting was closed to the press.

Alternative to local GOP won’t fly

Meanwhile, an attempt by several local Republican activists and donors to form a political committee as an alternative to the local party has folded, but those involved say they’ll work through Republican clubs instead.

Members of the group say the local party is failing at fundraising and electioneering for local candidates. Their goal was to form a PAC with office space and staff raising money, holding events and canvassing.

“We had several meetings and there were a couple of local legislators there who thought it was a great idea … but just could not get everybody on board that we needed,” said Terry Castro, a party activist and head of the local Patriots 4 Trump committee. “We can’t depend on the REC to do anything.”

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.