Actually, it's Senator-to-be Jeff Brandes behind attacks on Pinellas Commission candidates Charlie Justice and Janet Long

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Turns out, it’s Senator-to-be Jeff Brandes behind recent attacks on Pinellas Commission candidates Charlie Justice and Janet Long.

On Monday, Anna Phillips of the Tampa Bay Times reported that mailers attacking the two Democratic challengers for the County Commission were landing in mail boxes, paid for by a conservative group called the Main Street Leadership Council.

Phillips, to her credit, attempted to connect the dots. She reported that the Main Street Leadership Council has amassed $88,475 since June of this year. Public financial documents show that the vast majority of that money coming from the Committee for a Conservative House, the political action group of Rep. Will Weatherford. Phillips also noted that Florida Forward, the political committee of Rep. Richard Corcoran, gave $8,000 to the group.

So the attacks were coming from Weatherford and Corcoran, right?


Up-to-date campaign finance documents for Floridians for Liberty, a committee affiliated with just Brandes, donated $52,500 to the Main Street Leadership Council on October 11 — right about the time the direct mail attacking Justice and Long began hitting mailboxes throughout Pinellas.

Why would Brandes, fresh off his primary win and on his way back to Tallahassee, be so concerned about the outcome of two County Commission races?

Well, there’s the short answer and the long answer.

The short answer is that Brandes is, by now, the most prominent political opponent of a proposal to bring light rail to Pinellas County. So far that proposal has only belched along like an engine train from the 19th century. Were Justice and Long to replace Republicans Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield on the County Commission, the proposal to build light rail would begin moving as fast as an Acela Express line.

That’s the short answer.

The long answer is about the long game, which clearly Brandes has in mind.

Pompey the Great once remarked that more men worship the rising sun than the setting one. And which sun is rising in Pinellas? Those of Rick Baker and Jack Latvala and Bill Young still burn brightly, but they are setting suns, not rising ones.

Jeff Brandes is not yet in the same pantheon as these other men, but he is smart, ambitious, connected, and wealthy.

Jeff Brandes is a rising sun.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.