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  1. Florida Politics

Wheeler-Brown leads in local contributions in St. Petersburg City Council District 7 Race

ST. PETERSBURG — After weeks of playing nice, at least publicly, the five candidates vying for District 7 of St. Petersburg's City Council are trying to distance themselves from the pack.

Wednesday night's candidate forum at the Enoch Davis Recreation Center was the most spirited one yet, as each candidate tried appealing to the crowd. One common claim by candidates is that they are the most homegrown, the one with the deepest roots who isn't bought and paid for by out-of-town interests.

"We've made sure that everyone we purchase from is local," Sheila Scott Griffin said Wednesday, referring to campaign signs, T-shirts and other campaign expenditures.

But whose money truly is local? According to campaign contributions, that would be Lisa Wheeler-Brown. Her contributors are marked as teal on the map below.

Through Aug. 7, 69.1 percent of the $30,153 Wheeler-Brown has raised — by far the most in the race — was from St. Petersburg. If all of Pinellas County is included, then that percentage increases to 80.2 percent. Overall, 91.3 percent of her contributions were from Tampa Bay.

During the same period, Griffin (whose contributors are marked in purple on the map) drew 61.6 percent of her $8,431 in contributions from St. Petersburg, and 76 percent from Pinellas County. Overall, more than 97.9 percent of her contributions came from Tampa Bay addresses. Only one contribution, for $100, came from out of state (Flowery Branch, Ga.).

Aaron Sharpe (whose contributors are marked in yellow on the map) raised $6,389, of which 73 percent came from St. Petersburg. He had few other contributions, so his Pinellas share of 75 percent trailed that of Wheeler-Brown and Griffin, while his out-of-state contributions, on a $1,000 contribution from Austin, Texas, rose to 15 percent.

Will Newton (whose contributors are marked in burnt orange) raised the second most contributions with $21,565, but only 22.5 percent came from St. Petersburg and 36 percent from Pinellas. A union representative with ties to statewide labor organizations, Newton raised 18.6 percent from donors with Tallahassee and Washington D.C. addresses.

A fifth candidate, Lewis Stephens, raised less than $700 and didn't list any addresses.

Candidates must report another round of contributions Friday, just in time for Tuesday's primary. The top two finishers will square off in the Nov. 3 general election.

Charlie Frago can be reached at cfrago@tampabay.com. Follow @CharlieFrago.

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