Here’s where sh*t stands — the ‘local Democrats’ last chance’ edition

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With Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by as much as nine points (according to the latest Quinnipiac poll) there are green shoots of life for Tampa Bay’s Democratic candidates.

To paraphrase David Simon, the gods may not save the Democrats, but the top of the ballot just might.

Here’s where sh*t stands in several of Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough’s legislative races.

House District 63

This is a district that went for Barack Obama in 2008. Still, I’m not convinced Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison is in trouble yet, despite last week’s news about the filing of a series of election complaints.

Harrison says he was given permission to use the logo of the Tampa Firefighters, but stopped using it after he learned of the union’s endorsement of his opponent.

“You have our permission to use our union logo prior to our official endorsement as we are ins support of Amendment 9,” reads a July 1 email from Jace Kohan of the Tampa Firefighters Local 754.

That official endorsement of Harrison’s opponent, Democrat Mark Danish, was made public when Danish posted it on his campaign website.

“I have been in five elections and always had the firefighters’ endorsement,” said Rep. Harrison. “Needless to say I was stunned when I was not even interviewed by them and found out about their “official” endorsement on my opponent’s website on September 5.”

Harrison says that after he learned on September 5 of the firefighters’ support of Danish he spent the following week trying to clarify what permission he had or did not have.

“The firefighters never revoked my permission to use their logo,” insisted Rep. Harrison. “However, in an abundance of caution, we voluntarily stopped using it about two weeks ago.”

The advertising cited in the complaint filed by Hillsborough County resident Sam Perrone predates the official endorsement, Harrison said.

House District 65

Democrat Carl Zimmermann is throwing the kitchen sinkat Republican incumbent Peter Nehr. According to Will Hobson, Zimmermann is handing out eye-catching fliers with two pictures of a shirtless Nehr that highlight what Zimmermann feels are the three-term incumbent’s negatives.

This isn’t exactly a new approach for Zimmermann. In 2008 he called Nehr “morally bankrupt, personally bankrupt and professionally bankrupt.

Yet Z’s attacks seem to be having little impact. A recent survey conducted by St. Pete Poll showed Nehr up by ten points.

Remember, Nehr was on the House Redistricting Committee, so it should come as no surprise that HD 65 is now one of the reddest of Republican districts. Nehr, well-financed and well-organized, is about as much of a lock to win re-election as there is Pinellas County.

House District 66

Newly drawn, District 66 includes much of central-western portion Pinellas County.

Republican incumbent Larry Ahern wrapped up his “Road to Success” tour on Friday. This was part of Ahern’s effort to “talk to voters, listen to local business owners and visit some of the district’s favorite spots.”

The first-term legislator is also currently up with a pretty substantial buy TV ad buy — his ads are even airing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Most significantly, Ahern has about an $88K fundraising advantage over his Democratic challenger, Mary Lou Ambrose, who had just $11,760 cash-on-hand as of September 14.

Yet, despite these advantages, Ahern was only up 1.5% over Ambrose in the last public poll of the race.

House District 67

Let’s start with the money.

Republican incumbent Ed Hooper raised $37,675 between Aug. 10 and Sept. 14, adding to his huge financial lead over Democratic challenger Ben Farrell in House District 67

Hooper reported an overall total of $192,915. Contributors during the most-recent period ranged from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to the Florida Retail Federation. Farrell  had raised a total of $11,355 through September 14.

Besides the money, there is increasing chatter about problems in Farrell’s background, including a messy divorce.

House District 68

Facing off last week at a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon in St. Petersburg, Democrat Dwight Dudley and Republican Frank Farkas jousted over experience and a controversial issue that has cost Tampa Bay utility customers hundreds of millions of dollars in utility fees.

Lawmakers in 2006 approved a law to allow utilities to charge customers up front for future nuclear reactor construction. Backers said the law would reduce costs in the long run by allowing utilities to save up cash instead of having to pay interest on loans.

Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida, the state’s two largest utilities, are seeking federal approval to construct new nuclear plants. The bill, SB 888, passed both chambers with a single dissenting vote. Farkas was among the plan’s supporters.

Progress has since collected more than $650 million in advance nuclear fees and is requesting an additional $300 million next year. The collections continue despite recent developments that include damage to Progress Energy’s Crystal River Nuclear that may cost the company more than $1.2 billion to fix.

Farkas has defended, but said he regrets, his vote on the issue, saying it came as Florida was taking aggressive steps to develop alternative energy sources.

He points to other votes he took during his tenure, including measures to bolster public school standards and improve teacher quality.

Farkas supported the 10-20-Life law imposing minimum mandatory sentences on gun criminals, the Florida Forever land-buying program, and expanding KidCare to provide subsidized health care to more children.

“I am proud of my record,” he told Tiger Bay attendees.

House District 69

Democrat Josh Shulman and Republican Kathleen Peters also recently squared off at Tiger Bay. Unlike the Dudley vs. Farkas debate, which focused mostly on issues, the Shulman vs. Peters showdown was as much about temperament as anything else.

There were several instances when Shulman was downright rude to Peters, including when, during his closing remarks, he said that Peters was bought and paid for.

Shulman’s nastiness did not end at Tiger Bay, either. He sent out a rather nasty mailer late last week.

I’m surprised Shulman is going negative so early. Voters know very little about him other than he lost a race last year for the St. Petersburg City Council.

Worst of all, his attacks are likely to prompt a counter response from the Republicans that he may not be prepared for.

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.