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Will Newton continues to surge with campaign cash

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council candidate Will Newton continues to close the gap between fundraising numbers in his matchup against Lisa Wheeler-Brown in a five-way race for the District 7 seat.

Newton has raised about $8,000 less than Wheeler-Brown to date with $21,565 in total contributions. Wheeler-Brown has brought in $29,411. But Newton’s past two reports, including the most recent, show he is surging in fundraising efforts while hers has tapered off.

Newton raised $8,395 during the latest reporting period running from July 20 until August 2. Wheeler-Brown brought in about half that with $4,265 earned this report.

And Newton also has vastly more cash on hand than Wheeler-Brown or any of the other candidates. Of his more than $20,000 in contributions, Newton has spent just $8,124 of it. Wheeler-Brown, by contrast, has spent all but about $5,500 of her total contributions.

Contributions to Newton continue to roll in from firefighter groups. The Miami Firefighters PAC donated $1,000, as did the Firefighters and Paramedics for Public Safety organization. The Pinellas PBA PAC kicked in another $1,000.

Restaurateur Ron Gofrank also donated $1,000. More large $500 contributions from the Realtors PAC of Florida, the Realtors Political Advocacy PAC and the Realtors Political Activities Committee rolled in as well.

Newton’s latest round of campaign earnings came also from several smaller contributions from residents including activist Joanne Lentino and attorney Brian Battaglia. There were also several contributions from outside the area, including Georgia, Jacksonville and Fort Myers.

Newton spent $5,600 on a website, literature, signs, printing and postage from a company called Politicus. Newton’s campaign paid out $568 to Manhattan Casino for a campaign event. There was also a $900 payment for advertising to Extensive Enterprises, the company that owns this blog.

Wheeler-Brown enjoyed a $700 contribution from City Council member Karl Nurse, who has publicly endorsed her. She also received $500 from Bay Tech Label, the company Nurse heads.

She brought in $1,000 from Frank Brunkhorst of Sarasota and $500 from Core Construction Services.

Newton and Wheeler-Brown are considered the frontrunners in the race to replaces Newton’s brother, Wengay Newton. Newton is not seeking re-election due to term limits.

The other candidates are Sheila Scott-Griffin, Aaron Sharpe and Lewis Stephens.

Of those three candidates Scott-Griffin is leading fundraising numbers. She brought in $1,185 this period, bringing her total contributions to $7,118.

Contributions to her campaign include $100 from council chair Charlie Gerdes. However, Gerdes has publicly endorsed Sharpe.

Scott-Griffin has less than $1,000 left in her coffers. During the latest reporting period she spent $865 on mailings, a “production” and miscellaneous small expenditures on things like office supplies and transportation. Her total spent to date is $6,270.

Sharpe comes in just behind Scott-Griffin with $4,705 in contributions to date. Just $700 of that rolled in during the most recent period. Among other contributions, Sharp brought in $500 from restaurateur William Georgiou and $100 from Sarasota resident Joan Engle. He also received $100 from Newton’s photography in Gulfport, which, ironically, is owned by Wengay Newton.

Not surprisingly, Wengay Newton has endorsed his brother in the race so it’s odd to see a contribution to another candidate. However, Scott-Griffin is gaining in popularity so it could be an effort to boost Sharpe’s campaign to split those votes.

Sharpe spent $641 this reporting period on signs from Good Guy Signs and Central Avenue Signs. He’s spent a total of $3,530, bringing his cash on hand to a little less than $1,200.

Stephens is fundraising dead last among the pack. His latest treasurer’s report documents don’t list any fundraising numbers at all, but the previous period showed he had raised just $696 throughout his entire campaign.

Stephens also filed that report late, prompting a fine. He filed the report four days late. That comes with a $650 fine based on state laws requiring candidates to pay out of their own pocket $50 per day a report is late for the first three days and then $500 per day after that.

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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