Donations and popularity go hand in hand in St. Pete City Council races

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In political fundraising, popular candidates should be the ones who get the most donations. At least, it is supposed to be that way.  

With St. Petersburg politics, there is always room for surprises — but not always.

Occasionally, the candidate who raises the most money in a campaign does not sit on top of the polls. A prime example is the St. Pete mayor’s race.

In the most recent campaign reporting, Rick Kriseman pulled in $124,784 so far, about $9,000 ahead of Mayor Bill Foster. Unfortunately, the former City Council member and Florida House Representative is currently polling in third place, with about 24 percent of likely voters.

This puts Kriseman behind a newly re-invigorated Foster with 30 percent of likely voters, as well as neck-and-neck with former frontrunner Kathleen Ford, who is at 25 percent.

On the other hand, the City Council races seem to be following a more predictable trend. Community leader Darden Rice, the popular candidate with voters, is the one getting the financial support for her run for District 4.

Rice, who leads in recent polls, also pulled far ahead in finances over her Tea Party activist rival Dr. David McKalip. In the July 20 StPetePolls survey, Rice leads with 32 percent, with McKalip at 16.6 percent and Carolyn Fries with 11.1 points. 

In campaign finance report for July 1-19, Rice added $4,300 to her campaign for a total of $60,535, of which she has only spent just under $31,500. Among the 55 donors in July, Rice received even more firefighter backing and union support from service workers.

So far, she has been the clear favorite, with a long list of endorsements, including former Gov. Charlie Crist,  Florida realtors, unions and other City Council members.

In contrast, McKalip added only $1,750 to his total take of $32,293 and used almost all of it so far ($30,395).

In the District 4 contest, the one to beat — both in money and in popularity — is Amy Foster. Foster (remember, she is no relation to Mayor Bill) picked up another $935 for the two and a half weeks in July, with a total of $24,695, of which she has spent $14,715.

Alexander Duensing received only $895 during the July reporting period, with overall contributions of $4,677. He currently sits at 6.2 percent in the polls.

Steve Galvin, losing his campaign manager after a little bit of trouble with “truth” in a piece by the Tampa Bay Times,  has not yet filed July financing information. The latest figures put him at $14,580 total, including $12,000 in loans he made to his campaign. Galvin is a distant second to Foster, taking 7.4 percent of likely voters.

Robert Davis collected $20 dollars in July. His total is $2,292, less than a tenth of Foster’s take. Davis’ support is dwindling in the single digits, with less than five percent of likely voters.

In the same StPetePolls survey, Foster is comfortably ahead with almost 44 percent.

Another race where money is going to the favorite is District 6. Incumbent vice-chair Karl Nurse received $2,250 in July and now has taken $14,045 overall.

Sharon Russ also did not file a July report, and her only donations are two — one from Rodney Russ and the other a loan to herself. Trevor Mallory received a single $50 donation in July but spent $439 in the same July period.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.