The first fundraising deadline came and went last week and all of the major campaigns (I’ll get to that distinction in a moment) are still holding their collective breaths, waiting to see each others’ numbers. Of course, the local media is ready to write their horserace stories about which pony got out of the gate fastest. And yet, the same media that bemoans the presence of so much money in politics can’t help but write article after article about nothing other than all that money in politics. So here’s my handicappin’ guide to the 1st quarter reports due to be mailed no later than April 10.
Going into the first quarter, the expectation was that Deveron Gibbons would be the leading fundraiser. Initial reports are that he will not disappoint. Supposedly, he has raised north of $115K, a mind-boggling number that almost makes you forget that he was thrown off, err, not reappointed, to the Pinellas Housing Authority. The questions about Deveron’s report are: how much money did he raise from local donors as opposed to those from Tallahassee? how many lobbyists contributed? how much came from the payday loan industry? Don’t get me wrong, Deveron’s haul is a victory for his campaign, but he may have been better off raising a smaller portion from local donors now and turning on the faucet from Tallahassee later.
If expectations are high for Gibbons, they are astronomical for Scott Wagman. His campaign said they expected to raise $500K for the race, so anything less than $125K in the first quarter will be disappointing. Those are their expectations, not mine, so don’t blame me. When Wagman’s report comes out, it’ll be interesting to see, one, if he actually raised the money or if it’s just loans from him personally, and, two, if he has spent more than he’s raised. Expectations for the rest of the field were anything but spectacular. Of course, I know what Jamie Bennett raised and I will have to say it’s more than what was originally expected of him. In fact, the knock on Bennett was that he couldn’t fundraise. I’ve come to see that that should be a knock against his previous consultants. Jamie is not Deveron, nor did he sell his business for $19 million, but he had a strong first quarter, raising more money in two and a half months than he had for any of his previous campaigns.
The question is will Bennett finish third or lower. Bill Foster is telling anyone who will listen that he does not want to be the frontrunner and that his fundraising hasn’t really geared up yet. Well, Bill, I believe you. Neither you, or for that matter Bennett or Kathleen Ford, need to raise anywhere near what Gibbons has to raise for him to overcome his lack of name ID and the avalanche of negative press he will endure.
So look to see who finished strong out of the four current or former council members (Bennett, Ford, Foster and Williams). And, no, I don’t accept a candidate’s late entry as an exscuse for poor fundraising. You shouldn’t have entered the race if you couldn’t collect five or ten thousand in a hurry.
Maybe Deveron can loan you a stack or two of high society.