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Aakash Patel showing tremendous fundraising prowess in County Commission bid

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

First-time candidate Aakash Patel has already proved one thing during his bid to win a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission: he knows how to raise money

The 33-year-old Republican raised more than $41,000 for his campaign in August, bringing his total to $156,201. Add another $23,800 from his political committee, Elevate Tampa, and Patel has raised more than $180,000. 

By contrast, neither of the two Democrats running for the seat – Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin and House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz – have yet to report a single dollar to their respective campaigns.

Cruz only announced her candidacy this month. Capin announced in early June that she was running for the seat, though she said she wouldn’t hold her first fundraiser until this fall.

Among those contributing to Patel in August were Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart, Coppertail Brewing Company owner Kent Bailey and Tampa attorney Ron Christaldi, a partner of the Tampa law firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and the former chairman and general counsel of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Although the District 1 seat currently held by Republican Sandy Murman is not up for reelection until 2020, it is expected that it will be on the ballot in 2018 because Murman has announced she intends to step down to run for the county-wide District 7 seat.

Patel says he has three fundraisers lined up for next week, and hopes to reach his goal of raising $200,000 by the end of September.

“I’ll be very close,” he promises.

Known as a major networker, Patel also shows up on the campaign contributor lists of both candidates running for mayor in St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker. He has contributed $500 to each campaign, but says he’s neutral in what is officially a nonpartisan contest, but is considered anything but that by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Patel remains the lone Republican in the race, though rumors continue to persist that Mike Griffin may join the contest once his stint as chairman of  the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce concludes at the end of the year.

The Chamber’s Public Policy Committee on Thursday came out in opposition to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s proposal to raise the millage rate for the first time in 29 years.

Patel is a member of the board of directors on the Chamber, but doesn’t serve on that committee. He says he agrees with their position on the proposed tax increase.

“I think the way the Chamber presented it is right,” he said. “They have to be concerned about Tampa businesses, and I think this will set a bad precedent.”

District one encompasses South Tampa, much of Town ‘n’ Country and West Tampa, and much of the South Shore area.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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