Money spoke loudly in this year’s election

He showed up around 6:30 a.m., just as the sun was starting to rise above the horizon.

His place was in a side parking lot at Bridgeway Church, located on Wells Road in Wesley Chapel, and he came ready for the day.

Nick Burgess promoted his older brother Danny to voters all day Election Day from the bed of his pickup truck at Bridgeway Church in Wesley Chapel. Danny Burgess won his first state House election with 60 percent of the vote. (B.C. Manion/Staff Photo)

Nick Burgess promoted his older brother Danny to voters all day Election Day from the bed of his pickup truck at Bridgeway Church in Wesley Chapel. Danny Burgess won his first state House election with 60 percent of the vote. (B.C. Manion/Staff Photo)

Nick Burgess put signs up around his pickup truck, touting his older brother Danny Burgess, who was running for Florida House District 38. Nick was staying until polls closed at 7 p.m., and he had brought enough food to tide him over until then, and a restroom just inside the church to help get him through the long day.

Burgess was happy to be there, however. He wanted to show support for his brother, who was facing Beverly Ledbetter in the race to replace Will Weatherford in Tallahassee. And he has supported him from the beginning, especially when Danny told his family for the first time that he was going to run.

“I’m behind you 100 percent,” Nick told Danny. “The whole family is. That’s what it takes.”

The community was behind Danny Burgess as well, giving him 60 percent of the vote and a rather seamless journey from when he was an 18-year-old Zephyrhills City Council member, to the 28-year-old man he is now representing eastern Pasco County in the state House. To do that, however, he had to get past retired educator Beverly Ledbetter, who felt there was a lot she could do in the Legislature.

But if nothing else, she wanted to make sure voters had a choice.

“I was excited by the fact that many people, for the first time, were getting involved in the political process,” Ledbetter said. “They were walking neighborhoods, putting up signs, and making phone calls. That is an accomplishment.”

While Ledbetter felt she had local support from a dedicated group of people, one place she didn’t get much help from was the Democratic Party — at either the state or local level. Burgess picked up more than $23,000 in support from the Republican machine, while the other major party chipped in just a little more than $2,000 to Ledbetter’s campaign.

“You have to have money to actually get your message out,” Ledbetter said. “Besides your newspaper, none of the other major newspapers covered any of the local races, so people didn’t really get a great deal of information.”

She is still trying to figure out why the party virtually ignored this race, which she feels could’ve made a huge statement if Democrats claimed a seat currently held by the Republican House Speaker, Will Weatherford.

“That is part of the problem with people wanting to run, is that the state party gives you absolutely no support,” Ledbetter added.

Burgess took 60 percent of the vote, and another Republican — Mike Moore — had about the same success in his race to replace Pasco County commissioner Pat Mulieri. Despite not picking up endorsements from regional news outlets, or Mulieri herself, Moore spent a lot of money to beat Erika Remsberg in the District 2 race.

Moore finished with more than 91,000 votes in the race, and paid about $1.82 per vote received. Remsberg had a little more than 63,500 votes, paying out just 17 cents per vote, which shows the rather large gap between fundraising.

Remsberg won just 11 percent of the precincts voting by an average of 46 votes, according to unofficial results from the Pasco County Supervisor of Elections office. Her biggest margin was the precinct at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Port Richey, one of the few precincts in the county that has more Democrats than Republicans.

Early in her race, Remsberg knew her chances against a well-financed candidate in a Republican-leaning county were not the greatest, but the Land O’ Lakes social worker looked forward to the opportunity to run.

“I love going for the underdog,” Remsberg told The Laker/Lutz News back in July. “It’s just that this time it’s me, which is a new experience for me. But I’m good with grassroots efforts and community organization, and I’m getting out wherever I can to share a message of how we all need to work together.”

Published November 12, 2014

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