Erika Remsberg has not raised a lot of money for her bid to replace Pat Mulieri on the Pasco County Commission — and she never expects to.
Through July 25, the lone Democrat seeking a spot on the commission has collected $4,425 on direct donations, better only than the $2,350 raised by Ken Littlefield — one of three people Remsberg may face in the November election. And it’s practically pennies compared to the nearly $162,000 both Mike Moore and Mike Wells have combined to raise for their own races so far.
But Remsberg isn’t worried. While other candidates are getting the $1,000 maximum from many donors, she is averaging far less than $100 per contribution. And that’s a proper grassroots campaign in her eyes.
“I have been at a financial disadvantage since I started,” Remsberg said. “I had to make careful decisions about how I spend money.”
More than 80 percent of Remsberg’s donations have come from people living inside Pasco County, according to campaign finance records, maintaining what she says is her commitment to find support first among county residents. But not everyone has taken that approach, like one of the Republicans seeking Mulieri’s seat, Bob Robertson.
The financial analyst from Zephyrhills has raised a little more than $10,000 in donations in his primary fight against Littlefield and Mike Moore. But less than 20 percent of that has come from the county, or even from Florida, for that matter.
“I think part of what that says is that my sort of boundaries of life are a little broader than Pasco County,” Robertson said. “These are people who know me, who believe in me, and really have nothing to gain from me personally. They are just interested and being supportive of what I’m doing and what I believe.”
Many of those donations have come from Robertson’s native Maryland, and have consisted of smaller donations — well below the $1,000 maximum — from people Robertson has called friends and family. He would prefer his local amount of donations to be higher, but his focus has been more on making sure he doesn’t collect money from those who have business with the county, especially developers.
Robertson, in fact, has only collected $250 — or less than 3 percent — of his donations from those who work in land development or sales directly associated with it. That was a check from contractor Terry Cradick of Pepper Contracting, who Robertson told The Laker/Lutz News last week that he’s actually returning, because he since has found out Cradick does business with the county.
It’s keeping his hands clean from those looking to make money with the county that has kept Littlefield away from not only those donations, but most contributions in general. The former state legislator has practically bankrolled his entire election, with just minimal support from donors.
“I’ve made sure that any money that I’ve taken, that they didn’t have the potential of appearing before the board” of commissioners, Littlefield said. “I certainly can’t speak for them, but I’m sure those donors are looking for a foot in the door, and I’m not giving them one.”
That philosophy is different with the remaining commission candidates, however, including the lone incumbent looking to keep his seat — at least by actions, if not by rule.
Henry Wilson Jr., is trying to stave off a challenge to his seat from Mike Wells Jr., the son of county property appraiser Mike Wells Sr. The open primary Aug. 26 will let anyone choose between the two, regardless of the voter’s political affiliation.
In a candidate forum last week in Dade City, Wilson tried to distance himself from Wells by telling the audience he wasn’t collecting money from developers and real estate agents.
“The first time around (in 2010) they didn’t support me, and the second time around (in 2014) they still didn’t support me,” Wilson said. “Those builders and developers are not Pasco County residents. I need to be business-friendly with them. But my support, I want it to come from our residents here.”
Except Wilson is getting support from the developer community. More than $10,000 of his donations, or just under 30 percent, come from that group. That percentage is close behind both Wells and Moore, who each have had about a third of their campaign funded by those in the developer community.
When presented that statistic, Wilson clarified his earlier statement, focusing instead on where geographically the money came from.
“I have some local people, some local developers, who gave to me,” he said. “But the national firms, the national companies, they’re the ones who aren’t giving.”
But of the developers who have contributed to Wilson, less than 15 percent listed addresses from Pasco County, according to an analysis of campaign finance records.
These developers are small businesses that can’t be ignored, Moore said, in an email.
“It’s humbling to know that so many people and small businesses believe in our cause, and have been willing to make phone calls, knock on doors, donate funds and put up yard signs,” he said.
Wells is not ashamed of the support he’s received, adding that everyone deserves a voice, especially when they are contributing more than $350 million in new construction to the county.
“Contractors, builders, Realtors, road builders, etc., are playing a major role in fueling our county’s economic engine,” Wells said, in an email. “These business people have invested heavily, and have a real interest to see their county run properly.”
Developer/Real Estate Contributions
The percentage of each candidate’s total donations through July 25 for each Pasco County Commission candidate related to new property development, including contractors, engineers, real estate agents and the people who represent them.
Mike Moore – 36.6% ($32,600)
Mike Wells – 31.6% ($23,050)
Henry Wilson – 29.0% ($10,400)
Bob Robertson – 2.5% ($250)
Ken Littlefield – 0.0% ($0)
Erika Remsberg – 0.0% ($0)
Source: Pasco County campaign finance records
The percentage of each candidate’s total donations through July 25 for each Pasco County Commission candidate where the source of funds was from within the county.
Ken Littlefield – 91.5% ($2,150)
Erika Remsberg – 80.8% ($3,575)
Mike Wells – 66.7% ($48,645)
Henry Wilson – 56.1% ($20,135)
Mike Moore – 55.4% ($49,303)
Bob Robertson – 19.5% ($1,972)
Source: Pasco County campaign finance records
Published August 13, 2014
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