CLEARWATER — Mayoral candidate Frank Hibbard leads the campaign donations race with $110,619, which city officials are calling a record. The mayor’s position pays $27,546 a year.
“There won’t be much left after the campaign,” Hibbard told the Beacon. “It’s paid for a survey to 22,000 voters, and we’ve done a lot with social media.” He’s also spent money on the development and maintenance of his website. He said he plans to purchase TV ads in the coming weeks.
Thirteen candidates are seeking the mayor’s job and two council seats in the March 17 election. Campaign donation reports are filed monthly by the candidates, with the most recent figures released in January.
Incumbent Mayor George N. Cretekos has reached the two-term limit for the office and is not running.
Hibbard counts among his donors some of Clearwater’s, and Tampa Bay’s, biggest shakers. According to campaign treasury reports filed with the Clearwater city clerk’s office, those who donated the $1,000 limit to Hibbard’s campaign include: Frank Crum Corp., with another $1,000 from chief executive Frank Crum himself; Peter Jones, the retired financier; attorney Robert Hightower; Herbert G. Brown Real Estate; Jarrod D. Brown Real Estate; Brown Associates, Ltd.; Stephen Page of Southwind Hotels and Resorts; Equity Management Partners; and other property managers, financial consultants, bankers, and restaurant chains like Hooters Management Corp.
State Sen. Ed Hooper and Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel, both Republicans, each donated at least $250 to his campaign.
Hibbard, who serves on the Ruth Eckerd Hall and Clearwater Marine Aquarium boards of directors and is senior vice president at Steward Partners in association with Raymond James, has spent $31,868.67 as of his latest filing in January. That leaves him money for media advertising, such as small television spots.
The former two-term Clearwater mayor’s opponents have much less in their campaign coffers: Former Clearwater city councilman William “Bill” Jonson, his closest competitor in donations, has one-fourth the money at $25,790, while Elizabeth Drayer has self-funded her war chest to the tune of $20,000 and Morton Myers, a political newcomer, has $3,600 — $3,100 of which is his own money.
Jonson’s donors include Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith ($100); Shahab Emrani, a new member of Clearwater’s Downtown Development Board ($100); Tampa Bay Publications Inc. ¬— not affiliated with the Clearwater Beacon, Tampa Bay Newspapers or Suncoast News ($100); Tequilas Mexican Grill & Cantina ($100); and other business owners, physicians and retirees. Realtor Jill Melkonian donated $1,000 to his campaign, as did Charles Rutz, whom Jonson lists as a retiree; Richard A. Porraro, a Clearwater marketing executive; and Beach to Bay Brokers. His grassroots donations include Kate Belniak, who, as president of the Edgewater Drive Neighborhood Association, organized the battle against the Edgewater Drive condominium project. Jonson represented the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition in the battle to stop the project.
“I am thankful for each and every generous donation, no matter the amount, and am especially proud of those donations that come to me directly from the good folks living in Clearwater,” Jonson said. “Unlike Frank, I can tell you those Clearwater contributions do, in fact, make up more than two-thirds of what my campaign has raised.”
Teixeira leads in Council Seat 2 donations
Cleveland Street businesswoman Lina Teixeira’s $32,857 war chest exceeds Seat 2 candidates Bruce Rector’s $12,952.66, Mark Bunker’s $10,956, and Eliseo Santana’s $3,850.
Teixeira has served on a couple of downtown boards that dole out money for business improvements. Her donors include Water’s Edge condo owners and Cleveland Street business owners: $1,000 from Frank Perschino, President of Research Alliance Inc., 628 Cleveland St.; $250 from Leonardo Caicedo, owner/chef of La Fondita, 528 Cleveland Street; and $1,000 from Dan Shouvlin and others, including the Connelly Group, which specializes in business services.
According to her campaign documents, Teixeira’s biggest expense has been $9,250 to Data Targeting of Gainesville. The company’s website describes itself as an “integrated-service political consulting firm that turns data intelligence into winning strategies.” The company’s software is “designed to provide candidates deep insights into voting behaviors — and the edge of their competition.”
Rector, Clearwater Regional Chamber (now Amplify Clearwater) vice president, received $12,952.66 in contributions, starting with $20 from Scott Thomas, the candidate running for City Council Seat 3. Standouts include Brian Aungst, former mayor of Clearwater, $500; Katherine Cole, land use lawyer with Hill, Ward, Henderson, $250; businesswoman mentor Carol Hague, former chief executive of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, $100; Janelle Branch, chief operating officer of The Ring, $1,000; James Apelt of Apelt & Associates CPAs and Financial Consultants, $1,000; Nick DiCeglie, co-owner of Solar Sanitation, Inc. and the Republican representative for parts of northeast Pinellas in the Florida House, $500; and Brian Battaglia, the attorney who defended Largo City Commissioner Curtis Holmes in the censure vote against him, $50.
Elias leads donations in Council Seat 3
Chester “Bud” Elias received the most donations for the Council Seat 3 race with $40,601. He is a past chairman of the board of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, past chairman of the board of governors of the Countryside Country Club, charter member of the East Lake Rotary Club, a member of the Pinellas County Economic Development Council, and other local civic and business groups.
His donations came from business leaders such as Clear Sky owner Dan Shouvlin, $1,000; development lawyer Brian Aungst Jr., $500; as well as $1,000 from Dimmitt Chevrolet and $1,000 from Lawrence Dimmitt III. Other donors include Frank Crum, $1,000; Frank Crum Corp., $1,000; and Matthew Crum, chief executive of Frank Crum Insurance, $1,000; Neil Keifer, owner of the original Hooters restaurant that launched a dynasty, $500; Ferman Automotive Group, $1,000; DiCeglie, the local business owner and state representative, $500; Brian Aungst Sr., $250; and Floridians for Economic Freedom, $1,000. That political action committee is chaired by Rep. Chris Sprowls, the soon-to-be Speaker of the Florida House.
With $31,741, Kathleen Beckman has the second largest Seat 3 political fund. She has self-funded nearly half of her war chest, but has plenty of $25, $50, and $100 donations from individuals.
Beckman has provided her own $10,000 loan and $5,500 in donations for a total of $15,500. Donations from supporters make up the rest. Her largest contributors include attorney James Long, of Lansing, Michigan, for $1,000; consultant Fred Irwin, Clearwater, $1,000; Katherine Baker, $1,000; Gary Baker, $1,000; Veronica Long, $1,000; William Long, $1,000; and Donald O’ Dell, $500.
Reported Campaign contributions as of January, least to most:
1. Morton Myers, Seat 1 (Mayor): $3,600
2. Eliseo Santana, Council Seat 2: $3,850
3. Scott R. Thomas, Council Seat 3: $6,649.12
4. Dr. Bob Cundiff, Council Seat 3 incumbent: $8,927
5. Michael Mannino, Council Seat 2: $10,951.20
6. Mark Bunker, Council Seat 2: $10,956
7. Bruce Rector, Council Seat 2: $12,952.66
8. Elizabeth Drayer, Council Seat 1 (Mayor): $20,000
9. William Jonson, Council Seat 1 (Mayor): $25,790
10. Kathleen Beckman, Council Seat 3: $31,741
11. Lina Teixeira, Council Seat 2: $32,857
12. Chester “Bud” Elias, Council Seat 3: $40,601
13. Frank Hibbard, Council Seat 1 (Mayor): $110,619