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Hillsborough GOP contributes $1K to Jim Davison’s Tampa City Council campaign. But is it legal?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Although technically a nonpartisan board, party politics have been at play on who serves on the Tampa City Council for awhile. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Hillsborough County Republican Party is backing Jim Davison in the District 7 race.

However, its $1,000 contribution to his campaign may have gone too far.

According to the Tampa City Charter, Section 8.19, “A candidate for municipal office shall not: 1) Campaign as a member of any political party; 2) Publicly represent or advertise as a member of any political party; 3) Solicit or accept political party funds or endorsements.”

“Since I cannot advise City Council candidates regarding their activities, I cannot advise whether any specific candidate has violated this section,” said City Attorney Julia Mandell. “Any violation would be governed by the State of Florida Election code.”

When contacted, Davison said he’d been told by local party officials that they could not contribute to judicial candidates, but could to City Council candidates in an nonpartisan race. He said he couldn’t comment further until he saw the actual code ordinance, but stressed that he didn’t want to do anything against the law.

State law says, “No political party or partisan political organization shall endorse, support, or assist any candidate in a campaign for election to judicial office.” It is silent on nonpartisan races like a city council contest.

However, a spokesperson for the state Division of Elections told SPB on Sunday that because it is a City Council race, “local laws may apply.”

SPB has reached out to the Florida Elections Commission to hear what possible sanction could arise.

Hillsborough County Republican Party chair Deb Tamargo was not available for comment.

District 7 encompasses New Tampa,  Forest Hills and Terrace Park, and the areas around the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens. It’s the one district in the city that has been favorable towards Republicans the past. Joe Caetano represented the district from 2007-2011, and Shawn Harrison held the seat from 1999-2007. Both are Republicans.

Democrat Lisa Montelione defeated Caetano in 2011. She’s stepping down from the seat next month as she runs for the House District 63 race against Harrison.

A survey from St. Pete Polls released last week that while the plurality of voters in the district still remain undecided with just over two weeks to go in the race, Davison was the clear leader in the field, getting 27 percent support.

The Democratic and Republican parties were heavily engaged in early 2015 when Guido Maniscalco battled Jackie Toledo in the City Council District 6 race.  Although Toledo nearly won the race outright in the general election, she failed to get the 50 percent plus one needed, and had to battle for three more weeks against Maniscalco in the runoff election. With Tommy Castellano supporting Maniscalco,  the Democrat narrowly edged out Toledo, 51 percent to 49 percent.

Even with the $1,000 contribution, Davison has raised less campaign cash than any other candidate, with a total of $10,445.

Attorney Luis Viera has raised the most, bringing in $65,079. That’s more than double the next closest candidate – Cyril Spiro, who has raised $28,967.

 

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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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