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Gulfport challengers wind up campaigns with far more money than incumbents

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Gulfport candidates turned in their last campaign finance reports Friday before Tuesday’s election. As has been the case throughout the campaigns, challengers ended the fundraising battle far ahead of incumbents.

Barbara Banno, who is challenging Mayor Sam Henderson, raised more than $27,000 as of March 10. That total includes nearly $3,000 raised between February 27 and March 10. Henderson raised just $50 during that same period bringing his total fundraising haul to just over $11,000.

Meanwhile in the Ward 1 City Council race, challenger April Thanos has raised nearly $15,000 compared to incumbent Dan Liedtke, who has raised just $3,700.

Both incumbents are being challenged based, in part, on environmental issues. Banno is capitalizing on outrage over the August sewage dump into Clam Bayou by painting Henderson as having had a weak response to the City of St. Pete in officially promising it won’t happen again. Liedtke has been more vocal on the Clam Bayou issue, but his challenger is still playing up the pro-environment messaging against a candidate who, though the race is nonpartisan, is a well-known Republican.

Two candidates received some monetary nods from St. Pete officials. St. Pete City Council vice chair Darden Rice contributed $100 to the Thanos campaign. St. Pete City Council chair Amy Foster donated $50 to Henderson. That was Henderson’s sole contribution during the latest report.

While having more money than an opponent is never a bad thing, Henderson’s lax fundraising may show he’s confident enough in his re-election bid to not go toe to toe in fundraising. In fact, the latest campaign finance reports show he refunded a personal loan of $140.

Henderson also benefited from several hundred dollars worth of in-kind contributions. Henderson listed services valued at $200 each from Kelly Wright for website design and Spinnakers and Pia’s Trattoria for campaign events.

Henderson also spent a little more than $600 on advertising in the Gulfport Gabber. As of March 10, Henderson had about $5,000 left in the bank for the final week of campaigning.

His opponent, Banno, brought in 18 contributions during the latest reporting period. Six of those came from out-of-town. Some businesses showed support for Banno. O’Maddy’s, a popular bar near the city’s pier, donated a total of $801. Bo-tiki contributed $300 and Hudson Marketing cut Banno a check for $100.

Pinellas County Democratic Party finance chair and event coordinator Mary Ann Renfrow added to her previous contributions another $350. Banno’s largest contribution this report came from Michigan. Annabelle Wujkowski donated $900.

Banno also listed $870 in loans this report. That total came from the candidate’s own pocket. There’s also a $10 loan listed from Gulfport resident Nancy Little. That may have been misreported however because if the contribution were a loan the total loans this report would have been $880. Either way, it’s a simple mistake that can be easily corrected by filing an amended report.

Banno spent $3,400 during the latest campaign finance reporting period. Most of that expense went to Mad Dog Mail for campaign mailers. Banno is left with about $7,000 in the bank.

Both City Council candidates posted fairly relaxed campaign finance activity. Liedtke raised just $500 between late February and this week. That came from a sole Florida Professional Firefighters contribution.

Thanos raised $900 from 13 contributions. Those included nine from outside Gulfport, a trend that has been consistent throughout Thanos’ campaign.

Only two contributions were for more than $100. Gulfport retiree Jean Proach donated $300 and Cynthia Davis, another retired Gulfport resident, contributed $120.

Thanos spent $377 this report mostly to Mad Dog Mail. She’s spent a total of more than $11,000 to date leaving her cash-on-hand total at a little more than $3,000. Liedtke spent $270 this report on advertising in the Gulfport Gabber. He’s got less than $1,000 left in the bank.

The two races will appear on Gulfport ballots Tuesday.

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 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

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