Darden Rice ends race with record-breaking $119K for St. Pete District 4 campaign

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Now that October 31 has come and gone — the last day of fundraising for the November 5 St. Petersburg municipal elections  — civic activist and three-time candidate Darden Rice emerges as the firm money leader, as well as holding what may be a long-standing record for the most raised by a City Council candidate.

At least until the next election cycle.

Adding $8,640.65 to her District 4 campaign coffers during the last reporting period from Oct. 12-31, Rice now finishes the race with $118,865.65.

That is almost $48,000 more than the previous record holder Steve Kornell, who raised $71,000 for his District 5 win in 2009.

Former Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association president Carolyn Fries, Rice’s District 4 opponent, also had a healthy fundraising period, collecting $5,175 for a total of $22,980.  

Rice again had union support this round, with $1,750 combined from the Tampa Teamsters Local 79, West Central Florida PBA, St. Pete Firefighters and the Tampa PBA unions.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes and his wife gave Fries $500 checks each, as did the Brent Sembler Family Trust.

Fries also loaned her campaign another $3,000, which may have been needed since she also spent $10,065 — nearly $5,000 more than she took in. Fries’ entire campaign cost $21,793, leaving her with less than $200 left over.

Rice made some significant advertising buys in the final reporting period, investing $22,750 on things like robocalls and other media, also more than two-and-a-half times what she collected. Her whole campaign price tag was $118,592, with only $275 cash-on-hand at the end.

The District 4 race remains the closest in the city, with Rice still almost 11 points ahead of Fries as of the latest polling — 40.4 to 29.6 percent. However, there are still 30 percent undecided.

Among likely voters in the at-large citywide election, Rice leads by 11.5 percent, 37.4 percent to Fries’ 25.9 percent.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.