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Larry Ahern faces broke challenger in re-election bid

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

If a campaign’s probability of winning can be measured by the fundraising advantage it holds over its opponent, state Rep. Larry Ahern is well on his way to another term in the Florida Legislature.

At the close of 2015, the Pinellas Republican had raised nearly $75,000 compared to his opponent’s paltry $305.

Ahern is seeking re-election in the district he’s held since 2012. Facing him is Democrat Lorena Grizzle. Of her total campaign earnings, $200 stemmed from two campaign loans from herself. The other $105 came from contributions in October and November. Grizzle did not raise any money in December.

Of Ahern’s total amount raised, he’s spent $15,000 with just under $3,000 spent in December. About $1,300 of that was spent on storage space from U-Haul. Another $1,000 went to Strategic Image Management for consulting services. He also paid a $100 recurring bill to Verizon for a campaign cellphone. The rest of the expenses included four trips to the gas station as well as a campaign meeting at the Pub Waterfront Restaurant in Indian Rocks Beach.

In November Ahern’s campaign purchased a software subscription for Webelect. The $1,200 service, used for voter targeting and data management, will make it difficult for a poorly funded challenger to compete.

Grizzle could benefit some from name recognition, though. Her mother, Mary Grizzle, was the first woman ever elected to Florida’s House of Representatives.

Grizzle ran against Ahern unsuccessfully in 2014. So far in her 2016 campaign, she has only purchased business cards, a website and mailbox leaving her with an uphill battle despite an impressive resume.

Grizzle is a longtime teacher with two master’s degrees and a lifetime of political exposure. As the daughter of a legislator, Grizzle split years of her public school experience between Pinellas County Schools and Leon County Schools in Tallahassee.

During December, Ahern raked in $5,000 in contributions from healthcare-related donors and PACs. Wholesale Beer Distributors and Great Bay Distributors each contributed $1,000, and an insurance industry PAC kicked in $1,000.

Other health care groups contributed $500 as well as a pharmaceutical group. Most of Ahern’s December contributions came from committees, PACS or trade groups.

Ahern faces Grizzle in the November election. The district spans northwest Pinellas County from Seminole to Clearwater.

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 Patch.com 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 janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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