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Amid campaign finance controversy, Lisa Wheeler-Brown’s lead shrinks to within the margin of error

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council candidate Lisa Wheeler-Brown’s lead in the polls has shrunk to just two points over opponent Will Newton, within the margin of error. She had a seven-point lead following the primary.

The change is likely the result of a series of controversies showing Wheeler-Brown had used campaign funds to undergo dental work, a possible misuse of funds. Following that, SaintPetersblog uncovered the expense had gone misreported for more than six months as office space.

That information led to further scandal when it turned out Wheeler-Brown had been receiving office space for free, but had not reported the in-kind contribution. Her campaign attempted to blame the errors on a previous campaign consultant. The campaign said Nick Janovsky was fired, but he claims he quit after learning of questionable campaign finance activity.

Later, the campaign acknowledged to The Tampa Tribune “some” of the reporting errors happened after Janovsky left the campaign.

Even though it’s within the margin of error, Wheeler-Brown does appear to be clinging to a slight lead, which is good news for her considering the campaign finance news has lulled.

The results of the most recent St. Pete Polls survey could also be swayed by citywide voters. The primary election in which Wheeler-Brown claimed the winning spot was held only among District 7 voters from neighborhoods where Wheeler-Brown carries heavy name recognition due to her community activism.

As a firefighter union negotiator, Newton stands a good chance of wooing citywide votes in more affluent parts of the city. He’s also nabbed several Republican endorsements, likely giving him the edge in the city’s white vote — something that doesn’t particularly matter in District 7, which covers two of the city’s poorest and most heavily African-American saturated neighborhoods.

Either way, the poll shows that the District 7 race is far from over.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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