Buy local? Not state House political candidates

They have both championed jobs and money to flow into their district in Pasco County, but are two politicians seeking a place in Tallahassee practicing what they’re preaching?

Nearly $200,000 was raised from both sides in the campaign to replace Will Weatherford in the Florida House. But in the end, the district both Danny Burgess and Beverly Ledbetter hoped to represent saw very little of that money come back to them.

Since the primary, both Burgess and Ledbetter — the Republican and Democrat, respectively — pulled in $93,200 in cash donations for state House District 38. Yet, just $18,260 of that — less than 20 percent — was returned for purchases by the campaigns within Pasco County.

Of the two, Ledbetter had the worst record since the primary of buying local, spending less than $1,800 of the more than $28,000 in checks her campaign has issued. She has paid nearly $15,600 to Sonic Print in Tampa in the last reporting cycle alone for what were described as mailers. Another $440 went to a company called Parkway Strategies in Tallahassee for what the campaign said was “strategic communications.”

In total, Ledbetter spent $14,000 in the final weeks of her campaign, but only $100 — to volunteers for using gas in their cars — was paid out locally.

Burgess wasn’t much better. In the last two weeks of his campaign, the former Zephyrhills mayor spent nearly $61,500. But only $4,000 of that — less than 7 percent — ended up in local hands. Instead, nearly $47,000 was paid to a Jensen Beach company called David Millner Group for advertising, with another $10,000 going to a company called Strategic Image Management, which uses the same address as David Millner.

In fact, Burgess spent just under $81,500 with the Jensen Beach company, or 63 percent of his total expenditures. That’s enough to create four full-time jobs at $10 an hour, but spent in Martin County just north of the Fort Lauderdale area, and not locally.

Ledbetter spent $22,209 with Sonic Print in Tampa, or 69 percent of her total expenditures. That would’ve created one full-time job at $10 an hour, money provided for Tampa’s Carrollwood area.

Overall, since last November, Burgess has spent 27 percent of his money locally, while Ledbetter managed just a little more than 9 percent. Burgess turned away from local spending after the primary season, however, allowing his local expenditures to drop to 14 percent, while Ledbetter was at 6 percent.

“Our campaign bought local services when available, such as some printing supplies and materials,” Ledbetter told The Laker/Lutz News in an email. “I used a local Dade City printer for some work, and a local company for the T-shirts. Unfortunately, East Pasco — including Wesley Chapel — does not have any commercial mailing operation that I was aware of, and that comprises the bulk of my out-of-district purchases.”

As a grassroots campaign staffed by volunteers, Ledbetter said she hired very few professional services.

“Your report points out a need for the development of these types of companies in eastern Pasco,” Ledbetter added.

Burgess did not respond to a weekend request for comment.

Both candidates also relied heavily on political action committees to fund their campaigns since the end of August, with Ledbetter being more dependent on that money than Burgess.

Burgess has collected $26,700 in PAC money since the primaries, $16,400 for Ledbetter. However, that represented just 37 percent of his contributions during that time period, while for Ledbetter, PAC money made up 81 percent of her donations.

But even then, local money was missing. Of the more than $73,000 Burgess raised since the primary, only 17 percent came from local sources. Ledbetter picked up $20,111 in contributions during the same time, with 29 percent local.

Overall, Burgess raised $160,000 in this campaign over the past year, compared to $38,500 from Ledbetter. Of his total, Burgess saw 28 percent of that money being local, and 33 percent of it from PACs. Ledbetter had 44 percent of her money from local sources, while 47 percent of it was from PACs.

Voters will choose between the two for the state House race Nov. 4.

BIGGEST EXPENDITURES

DANNY BURGESS
David Millner Group/Strategic Image Management, Jensen Beach$81,418
Capitol ConsultingOdessa — $8,750
OAI, Tampa$2,204

BEVERLY LEDBETTER
Sonic Print, Tampa — $22,209
Image Media, Tarpon Springs$4,735
Tampa Type/Print, Dade City — $1,145

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