Where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay legislative races

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Five months from Election Day, Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee and Bill Galvano are still running unopposed. The only two bay area Senate seats in contention so far are the SD 18 contest between Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young and Democrat Bob Buesing and the three-way Democratic primary going down in SD 19.

Young had built up quite the lead in her jump to the Senate, and though Buesing posted more than $100,000 in contributions in his May campaign finance report, Young responded with more than $166,000 in contributions to her campaign account and another $115,000 for her political committee, Friends of Dana Young.

The May performance left her with more than $1 million in funds across the two accounts, compared to about $96,000 for Buesing, whose total includes $5,500 in loans.

In SD 19, first-term Democratic Rep. Ed Narain piled on another $17,130 last month for an on hand total of about $79,000. Fellow Democratic Rep. Darryl Rouson outraised him on the month, though he holds just $31,000 in his campaign account. Rep. Betty Reed fell further behind in the race after adding just $2,075 for an on hand total of about $16,500, while John Houman, the lone Republican in the race, recorded a $3,000 loan as his only income since filing in the middle of May.

The race to replace Narain is just as lopsided. Since filing for the HD 61 seat in March, Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw has raised more than $52,000 and has about $30,000 of that money on hand compared to about $12,000 for Dianne Hart and $3,500 for Walter Smith.

For the most part, House Republicans are faring well, with incumbent Reps. Jake Raburn and Jamie Grant crossing off another month without out opposition, while Reps. Chris LatvalaLarry Ahern and Dan Raulerson each continued their fundraising dominance over fledgling rivals.

Tarpon Springs Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls did pick up a challenger last week in Democrat Bernie Fensterwald, though he’ll have a tough time catching up to Sprowls, who has $126,000 in his campaign account and another $197,000 on hand in his political committee, Floridians for Economic Freedom.

In HD 69, Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters was outraised by her challenger, Democrat Jennifer Webb, for the second month running. Peters’ $6,450 haul barely covered expenses in May and left her with about $116,000 in the bank, while Webb added another $19,266 to boost her on hand total to nearly $37,000 after two months in the race.

Republican Reps. Ross Spano in HD 59 and Shawn Harrison in HD 63 are also facing tough re-election battles, with Spano spending another month in second place behind Democratic challenger Rene Frazier.

The incumbent lawmaker raised more than Frazier and Democrat Golnaz Sahebzemani last month and increased his on hand total to about $81,000, but it wasn’t enough to erase the gap between himself and the Brandon attorney, who entered June with more nearly $87,000 in the bank.

Harrison fared better. The first-term lawmaker brought in $20,550 in May, leaving him with about $133,000 on hand, while his major competitor, Democratic Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione, raised just $6,275 to bring her war chest to about $61,000.

Harrison’s other challenger, Democrat Mike Reedy, raised just $110 and had about $16,000 in his campaign account.

In HD 68, Democrat Ben Diamond has taken control of the race to replace exiting Rep. Dwight Dudley.

Diamond was able to raise $28,366 in April after Dudley had announced he would forego re-election, and came in with another $75,752 in May. The burst in fundraising left him with about $98,000 in the bank at the end of the month compared to about $5,900 for Republican Joseph Bensmihen.

Diamond will face a tough primary battle against Eric Lynn, however, as the mid-May filer has committed to dumping $500,000 into a political committee supporting his candidacy.

The other two open seats in the bay area — HD 60 and HD 70 — also looked to feature tough primary battles, though Republican Rebecca Smith threw in $165,000 of her own money last month to give her a nearly $200,000 lead over fellow Republican Jackie Toledo in the race to replace Rep. Young in HD 60.

With more than $288,000 on hand for Smith, and $92,000 on hand for Toledo, lone Democratic filer David Singer faces an uphill battle in the GOP-leaning seat despite raising another $25,696 last month.

The HD 70 race is a little closer, with St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton holding a small lead over Dan Fiorini in the Democratic Primary, though a third Democrat, Christopher Czaia filed for the race on June 1.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.