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Is Florida Democratic Party pulling strings in the St. Pete District 7 race?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

As a candidate for St. Petersburg City Council District 7, Lisa Wheeler-Brown has enjoyed her share of success, collecting key endorsements and leading in fundraising ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Nevertheless, some big Democratic players seem to be working behind the scenes in her favor in the supposedly nonpartisan municipal race.

Is the Florida Democratic Party pulling some strings in the District 7 race for Wheeler-Brown?

Some proof might be found in recent mailers supporting Wheeler-Brown, the civic activist looking to replace Wengay Newton on the City Council.

Wheeler-Brown faces four challengers: Will Newton (Wengay’s brother), Sheila Scott-Griffin, Aaron Sharpe and Lewis Stephens.

Three mailers, including one from the candidate herself and another from the FDP attacking Scott-Griffin seem to have the same fingerprints – a PAC named Florida Voters Fund.

According to Division of Elections records, major Pinellas County Democratic operative Tom Alte is the mastermind behind the Florida Voters Fund.

In just a few short years, Alte has become one of the leading names in Pinellas County Democratic politics.

After moving to St. Petersburg from Illinois in 2013, Alte quickly hit the ground running with a role in Rick Kriseman’s mayoral victory. On the heels of another win, this one as former Largo Mayor Pat Gerard’s campaign manager for Pinellas County Commission, Alte set up shop as Blue Ticket Consulting.

Currently, Alte is finance director for Eric Lynn for Congress, most notable for its solid early $400K haul in the race for David Jolly’s seat, as the Indian Shores Republican seeks a place in the U.S. Senate.

Now it appears Alte is turning his prodigious talents toward the District 7 race.

A pro-Wheeler-Brown mail – produced by FVF – as well as a Florida Democratic Party mailer attacking Griffin and Wheeler-Brown’s mailer all appear to tie together.

Did one person or company do all three jobs?

One can make an argument for a connection, first by examining small codes on the address panels of the three mailers. Each has a similar committee abbreviation style (the last two digits of year/job number).

Of course, Alte’s connection to Wheeler-Brown is just about as direct as you can get, without actually being on staff. Alte is engaged to Meagan Salisbury, her campaign manager.

Also, if Alte were behind all three mailers, it would also seem to be a logical business move – a single mail consultant streamlining billing on a variety of jobs.

Admittedly, there is no smoking gun directly connecting the Florida Democratic Party to Wheeler-Brown’s own mailers – the FDP, as a general rule, shies away from involvement in races between Democrats.

Nevertheless, dots do connect to make a pretty decent circumstantial case.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.

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