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Brian Willis touts fundraising prowess in Hillsborough County bid

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Buoyed in part by a very successful inauguration fundraiser/birthday party at an Ybor craft brewery last week, Hillsborough County Commission District 6 candidate Brian Willis is touting his first fundraising totals in a press release issued on Friday.

The 32-year-old Tampa attorney and transit activist took in $45,537 in April, the first month that he has officially been campaigning for office and collecting money. The Willis campaign says that is the third best start for a county commission race in the past decade, trailing only current Commissioners Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham in their races for countywide office last year.

“In just one month 181 people donated to the campaign and over 1,600 people supported us,” Willis said in a press release. “Thanks to them there is no question that we are going to raise the resources and have the support to run and win countywide.”

Although exact figures have not been released, a substantial part of that $45,537 came from a very successful birthday party/fundraising event last Wednesday at Coppertail Brewing, which was swarming with supporters, including a majority of people who looked to be under 35 years of age.

By contrast, the current youngest member of the Board of County Commissioners is Stacy White, who is 42.

Further west on Kennedy Boulevard, the Tampa City Council recently received an infusion of youth when 30-year-old Guido Maniscalco was elected to that body. Forty-four-year-old Harry Cohen had been the youngest member on council until Maniscalco’s election.

Willis says that a campaign video released on April 6 has been watched more than 5,880 times, and he has gained over 1,600 supporters since then.

“I feel like Brian is one of the few candidates for county commission I’ve seen in a long time that are understanding of the issues that we face over here in east Hillsborough,” says Bloomingdale resident Jereme Monette. “A lot of them are kind of stuck down in the Tampa area, and to get over here east of I-75 and have somebody understand the issues over here is a big deal for me.”

Hannah Strong moved to South Tampa with her husband two years ago from Denver, and says that the 32-year-old Willis “seems wise beyond his years.”

She says she became immediately impressed with his work on transit issues, and became excited when he said he would be running for office.

“I live in south Tampa, where the majority of my friends probably identify as Republican,  but when I talked to them about the kind of things that Brian is doing, they’re excited. I feel like he really could cross political barriers, because he’s a real estate lawyer, he has a sense of the business community.”

The Willis camp produced a list of the 10 most successful first- month fundraising totals over the past decade — headed by Hagan and Higginbotham, both of whom raised more than $300,000 total in their races. Both, of course, had served on the commission for many years and had much higher recognition than Willis currently does.

Willis is running against Pat Kemp and Marisol Blanco in the Democratic Primary for the District 6 seat, scheduled for August of 2016.

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 [email protected]

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