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Lisa Wheeler-Brown raised more money, but Will Newton has more in the bank

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

St. Pete City Council candidate Will Newton has surged ahead of the pack with cash on hand numbers based on the most recent campaign finance reports filed with the city.

Between July 1 and July 19 Newton raised nearly $11,000, bringing his total contributions to date to more than $13,000. Those numbers aren’t quite as impressive when compared to Lisa Wheeler-Brown’s total contributions, which are more than $25,000.

However, Wheeler-Brown has spent all but about $500 of her campaign cash. Newton has spent just $899 so far, leaving just over $10,000 in his campaign coffers.

The fundraising numbers also show a potentially alarming trend for Wheeler-Brown. Where Newton stepped up his fundraising game substantially in the most recent reporting period, Wheeler-Browns fundraising numbers dwindled to just $993 during the same period. That’s a difference of more than 1,000 percent.

Newton’s vast increase in fundraising came largely from firefighter groups. He brought in maximum $1,000 contributions from the Southwest Florida IAFF 1826 union, the IAFF, the Florida Professional Firefighters where Newton works and the Jacksonville Firefighters PAC. The Broward Firefighters union kicked in $500.

Newton’s campaign organizer, Steve Lapinski, also donated $1,000. Other large contributions came from the law firm of Bichler, Kelley, Oliver and Longo, which donated $500, Jon Pearl who is a firefighter, and $250 from attorney Robert McKee.

Meanwhile, Wheeler-Brown’s fundraising numbers shrank to just a handful of contributions, including $250 from entrepreneur Peter Appleton-Jones. Another $100 contribution came in from Frank Lupo. However, he also donated the same amount to Newton’s campaign.

The surge in fundraising is good news for the Newton camp as Wheeler-Brown has now officially nabbed endorsements from both major newspapers in the area. Newton has also earned some endorsements, including the latest from the Police Benevolent Association.

However, Wheeler-Brown has already spent a lot of money campaigning while Newton has not. During this reporting period she spent nearly $6,000 on mailers and another $3,500 on campaign consulting.

The two candidates are running for City Council District 7, which encompasses some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, including Midtown and Child’s Park. They face three other candidates as well.

Aaron Sharpe, president of the Pasadena Bear Creek Neighborhood Association – a fairly new addition to the district – brought in $1,350 this reporting period. That brings his total contributions to $4,005, of which he has about half remaining.

Sheila Scott-Griffin, a former attorney and current “consultant,” brought in $1,480 to bring her total fundraising numbers to nearly $6,000. She’s spent $5,400 of that. Scott-Griffin brought in a $200 contribution from state Rep. Kathleen Peters hinting that she may be garnering conservative support in the district. That may be of little use, however, in a district where voting habits tend to run blue.

The fifth candidate, Pinellas County Schools behavioral specialist Lewis Stephens, did not turn his treasurer’s report into the City Clerk’s office by the 5 p.m. deadline Friday.

According to City Clerk Chan Srinivasa he could still be in compliance. If the report is post marked with Friday’s date it is not considered late. However, if it is not Stephens faces a $50 per day late charge for the first three days. That fine goes up to $2,500 or a percentage of the candidate’s on-hand funds. As of the last reporting period that ended June 30, Stephens had only raised enough to cover his filing fees.

The District 7 race is the only one that will appear on the August 25 primary election ballot. There are two other races that will be on the November general election ballot.

City Council Chair Charlie Gerdes faces Monica Abbott.

Gerdes, who represents voters in District 1, is considered a shoo-in for re-election and his fundraising efforts evidence that. He raised just $200 from Pressman Associates this reporting period, bringing his total fundraising numbers to just $1,300.

Abbott isn’t doing much better. She didn’t raise any funds this reporting period and has only raised a total of $1,000.

Steve Kornell is also up for re-election against Phillip Garrett. Kornell has raised a whopping $33,885 to date for an election considered an easy win for Kornell. That includes just $380 during the latest reporting period.

Kornell’s opponent, Garrett, also has not turned in a treasurer’s report to the City Clerk’s office. As of the previous reporting period he had raised just $185.

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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