Pinellas commission candidates Pat Gerard and Ed Hooper aren’t sweating the election

in Uncategorized by

The funding deadline came and went last night turning off the faucet of campaign contributions for this election. With just four days until Election Day, candidates are running short on time to spend what money they have left and sway voters who still haven’t hit the polls.

One of the major races in Pinellas County is between Republican Ed Hooper and Democrat Pat Gerard for a seat on Pinellas County Commission. The two are running to replace incumbent Norm Roche who Hooper ousted during the primary in August.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Gerard said of her campaign. “We’ve done everything we wanted to do.”

When asked what she was feeling at this point in the campaign though, Gerard’s first reaction was, “exhaustion!” The current Largo mayor raised $180,706 as of October 17. Final fundraising numbers haven’t been released yet and Gerard isn’t even sure what they’ll look like.

“It’s funny how some people don’t pay attention until the last week,” Gerard said. “I’ve been running around picking up checks all over the place I can’t even guess what we’ll end up bringing in.”

Gerard was jovial on the phone talking about her endeavors with voters during the past couple of weeks. She laughed and praised all of the people who have worked so hard to help her – and of course all those check writers, even the last minute ones.

She didn’t have much to say about her opponent. That’s a shift from the overall tone of both campaigns. Gerard and Hooper have both swapped ethics complaints. Gerard claims Hooper misused his clout as a Representative in Tallahassee to make money for clients in his consulting business. One key piece of evidence she has is his partner’s work with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which could benefit from legislation Hooper voted for that allows the non-profit to apply for a cut of the county’s bed tax funds.

Hooper, on the other hand, has accused Gerard of using a city-sponsored trip to solicit campaign contributions from possible donors in Tallahassee. Both candidates, of course, deny the allegations against them.

The race between Gerard is expected to be close despite a huge spending gap. Hooper raised $228,961 as of October 17 – that’s nearly $50,000 more than Gerard.

As of last night about 185,000 voters had already cast a ballot. Of those, Republicans cast more than 77,000. Just fewer than 70,000 Democrats have voted.

“There’s more Democrats than we expected, so I guess that’s good,” Gerard said.

Hooper isn’t sweating the election either saying, ““I’ve been in this campaign now one year, eight months and two weeks. If I ain’t done it by now, I have no use panicking at this stage.”

Early voting ends Sunday. Election Day is Tuesday. Voters who requested a vote-by-mail ballot have until 7 p.m. Tuesday to return them. That’s the same time the polls close. It’s also about the same time candidates will be holding their breath waiting to see whether they’ve won a new job.

Gerard will host an election night party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Largo Mall.

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.