Money art for campaign spending

It’s been a trying 2020 campaign season for sure.

In a year with 23 local candidates on the Aug. 18 primary ballot, COVID-19 has forced campaigning to a near standstill. Without having that direct access to candidates, which in a community such as Citrus County we’ve enjoyed every political year, it’s difficult to get a read on who the candidates are and where they stand.

There is one place, though, that can answer some of those questions or at least provide clues: campaign finance reports.

Candidates for office need to account for every dime they collect and spend. They have to identify donors by name and follow strict election law protocol in reporting.

During much of the year, reports are due monthly and cover the prior month. As the time to the primary or Election Day narrows, reports become due every two weeks and then every week.

They’re fairly straightforward and easy to read. You can find them on the Citrus County Supervisor of Elections website, www.votecitrus.com.

What can voters learn from campaign reports? Plenty:

• Is the candidate active in fundraising? One way to tell is to count the number of contributors. Each check, whether $5 or the maximum of $1,000, is a separate contribution. A candidate with few contributors is bankrolling much of the campaign his or herself.

• How does the candidate spend his contributions? Are they paying for campaign materials, such as signs, business cards and T-shirts, or are candidates spending money on other campaign-related expenses? The reports give a sense of the candidate's spending priorities.

• Who is supporting candidates? This is the one most people look for. While I avoid making any conclusions about a candidate based on contributions, there’s no doubt they tell a story. Some candidates have broad support of developers and business interests, for example. Others not so much. 

(Side note: Whenever candidates say they don’t accept special interest donations, I always ask how many have they turned down. It happens, but not often because, as you will see in the reports, most candidates are not loaded up with thousand-dollar contributions.

• How much has the candidate invested of his or her own money? Some candidates have a nearly equal balance of contributions and private funds. Others provide none of their own cash. Some, well, it’s thousands of dollars.

• Contributions are not just cash. Anything of value, other than cash or checks, must be noted as an in-kind contribution. Someone provides lumber for campaign signs, that’s a contribution and a value is placed on that lumber. In-kind contributions also have an individual cap of $1,000.

In the chart below, we've combined associated businesses or family members. For example, auto dealer Steve Lamb is a contributor to several campaigns. He may donate $1,000. His wife, Jewel, may donate $1,000. Businesses owned by the Lambs also contribute. Rather than list each individually, as they are on the elections report, we combined them as a total contribution.

Note: These totals are as of the July 3 reporting date. The next reporting date, July 17, came after deadline.

• Candidate: Patrick Crippen.

• Office: Sheriff.

Total collected: $39,843.

Total spent: $32,441.

Number of contributors: 410.

Number of $1,000 contributions: 8.

Noteworthy donors: Citrus Hills businessman Nick Tamposi, $500; Scott Plumbing, $1,000; Adams Partners LP, Anacortes, Washington, $1,000.

Candidate’s contribution: $7,471.

Expenses include: $13,597 to FGE Prints of Crystal River for campaign signs and other materials.

Of note: Nothing stands out.

• • • 

Candidate: Mel Eakley

Office: Sheriff

Total collected: $60,841

Total spent: $29,688

Number of contributors: 412

Number of $1,000 contributions: 23

Noteworthy donors: Realtor Kevin Cunningham, $500; April Royal, widow of Phil Royal, $500; Crystal River Councilman Pat Fitzpatrick, $100; Citrus County Chamber CEO Josh Wooten, $20.

Candidate’s contribution: $2,050

Expenses include: $5,987 to JM Signs of Homosassa

Of note: Eakley’s contributors include $10 from Heather Cogar, a Citrus County Sheriff’s employee who unsuccessfully sued Sheriff Mike Prendergast.

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Candidate: Mike Klyap Jr.

Office: Sheriff

Total collected: $24,224

Total spent: $19,707

Number of contributors: 343

Number of $1,000 contributions: 2

Noteworthy donors: Paul John Reinhardt, candidate for superintendent of schools, $25; Virgilio Insurance, $350.

Candidate’s contribution: $2,000

Expenses include: Klyap repaid $650 for money he loaned to his campaign.

Of note: Nothing stands out

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Candidate: Michael Prendergast

Office: Sheriff

Total collected: $137,931

Total spent: $36,613

Number of contributors: 384

Number of $1,000 contributions: 87

Noteworthy donors: Auto dealer Steve Lamb, $5,000; businesses owned by or associated with former commissioner Scott Adams, $3,000; jail contractor Core Civic, $500; state Rep. Ralph Massullo, $1,000; Crump’s Landing co-owner Byron Rodgers, $5,000; Robert Newman, vice president of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. of Tampa, $1,000.

Candidate’s contribution: None

Expenses include: $7,160 to Lecanto-based Winsler Consulting & Advocacy LLC.

Of note: Despite outraising his competition, Prendergast has spent only 26% of his contributions.

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Candidate: Cregg Dalton

Office: Property Appraiser

Total collected: $41,855

Total spent: $21,755

Number of contributors: 235

Number of $1,000 contributions: 18

Noteworthy donors: auto dealer Steve Lamb, $4,000; auto dealer Nick Nicholas, $500; lobbyist Gene McGee, $1,000; Mari-Elain Ebitz, wife of Chronicle Editorial Board member Curt Ebitz, $135; Mark Hammer, county commission District 3 candidate, $20; Crystal River Councilman Pat Fitzpatrick, $100; D.A.B. Constructors, $3,000; Commissioner Jeff Kinnard, $1,000.

Candidate’s contribution: $1,750

Expenses include: $7,000 to Brightberry Marketing of Inverness.

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: David Gregory

Office: Property Appraiser

Total collected: $390

Total spent: $258

Number of contributors: 5

Number of $1,000 contributions: None

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $290

Expenses include: Website and materials

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: Tim Reynard

Office: Property Appraiser

Total collected: $10,200

Total spent: $1,781

Number of contributors: 3

Number of $1,000 contributions: None

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $10,000

Expenses include: Signs, rack cards

Of note: Reynard has two donors other than himself.

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Candidate: Rob Tessmer

Office: Property Appraiser

Total collected: $24,490

Total spent: $15,629

Number of contributors: 104

Number of $1,000 contributions: 14

Noteworthy donors: Retired Judge Patricia Thomas, $200; banker George Brannen $250.

Candidate’s contribution: $1,050

Expenses include: About $6,000 in consulting and campaign materials to Lecanto-based Winsler Consulting & Advocacy LLC.

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: Sandra “Sam” Himmel

Office: Superintendent of Schools

Total collected: $34,770

Total spent: $15,545

Number of contributors: 581

Number of $1,000 contributions: Eight

Noteworthy donors: School board attorney Wes Bradshaw, $50; auto dealer Steve Lamb, $3,000; school board members Thomas Kennedy and Linda Powers, $40 each; Jobs for Florida, a PAC led by Sen. Wilton Simpson, $1,000; Commissioner Jeff Kinnard, $500; former Chronicle publisher David Arthurs, $100.

Candidate’s contribution: None

Expenses include: $5,524 for billboards.

Of note: Himmel shut down her fundraising efforts in 2020, raising just $300 since December. Still, her number of single contributors is the highest of all local candidates for any office.

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Candidate: Paul John Reinhardt

Office: Superintendent of Schools

Total collected: $2,200

Total spent: $307

Number of contributors: 3

Number of $1,000 contributions: None

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $2,000

Expenses include: business cards, petition verification

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: Scott Adams

Office: Supervisor of Elections

Total collected: $39,550

Total spent: $17,008

Number of contributors: 74

Number of $1,000 contributions: 17

Noteworthy donors: Crump’s Landing, $5,000; Crystal River Councilman Pat Fitzpatrick, $100; Citrus Hills Holdings, $1,000.

Candidate’s contribution: $15,100

Expenses include: Advertising, rack cards

Of note: Adams added $15,000 of his own money to the campaign in April.

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Candidate: Maureen “Mo” Baird

Office: Supervisor of Elections

Total collected: $21,749

Total spent: $9,431

Number of contributors: 94

Number of $1,000 contributions: Six

Noteworthy donors: Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill, $847; former commissioner Winn Webb, $100; retired Judge Patricia Thomas, $100; auto dealer Steve Lamb, $4,000.

Candidate’s contribution: $5,000

Expenses include: Printing, advertising, supplies

Of note: Supervisors of Election from seven counties — Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Hernando, Martin, Okeechobee and Polk — donated to Baird’s campaign.

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Candidate: Thomas Corkery

Office: County Commission District 3

Total collected: $7,000

Total spent: $4,432

Number of contributors: one

Number of $1,000 contributions: none

Noteworthy donors: none

Candidate’s contribution: $7,000

Expenses include: $3,786 ballot qualifying fee

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: Ruthie Davis Schlabach

Office: County Commission District 3

Total collected: $76,202

Total spent: $20,542

Number of contributors: 146

Number of $1,000 contributions: 36

Noteworthy donors: Auto dealer Steve Lamb, $4,000; Crump’s Landing, $5,000; Beverly Hills Development Corp., $2,000; Citrus Hills, $3,000; Grant & Dozier law firm, $1,000; D.A.B. Constructors, $4,000; Gulf to Lakes Real Estate, $300; Mari-Elain Ebitz, wife of Chronicle Editorial Board member Curt Ebitz, $200.

Candidate’s contribution: $20,000

Expenses include: advertising, campaign events, signs

Of note: Schlabach received financial support from a political committee headed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, and four similar committees chaired by legislators.

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Candidate: Mark Hammer

Office: County Commission District 3

Total collected: $9,260

Total spent: $5,316

Number of contributors: 32

Number of $1,000 contributions: one

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $6,500

Expenses include: photography, lumber for signs

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: Angel Starr Lewis

Office: County Commission District 3

Total collected: $2,196

Total spent: $1,663

Number of contributors: 21

Number of $1,000 contributions: None

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $1,000

Expenses include: Campaign signs

Of note: Nothing stands out.

 *****************************************

Candidate: Luis Marin

Office: County Commission District 3

Total collected: $23,994

Total spent: $20,259

Number of contributors: 36

Number of $1,000 contributions: Five

Noteworthy donors: The Biscuit Barn, $1,000

Candidate’s contribution: $15,000

Expenses include: $3,500 to Winsler Consulting & Advocacy LLC of Lecanto.

Of note: Marin, a retired Miami-Dade County police officer, has contributions from current and retired South Florida members of law enforcement.

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Candidate: Edwin Roberts

Office: County Commission District 3

Total collected: $7,000

Total spent: $4,528

Number of contributors: One

Number of $1,000 contributions: None

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $7,000

Expenses include: $3,786 ballot filing fee.

Of note: Nothing stands out.

*****************************************

Candidate: Holly Davis

Office: County Commission District 5

Total collected: $45,035

Total spent: $13,804

Number of contributors: 121

Number of $1,000 contributions: 18

Noteworthy donors: Auto dealer Steve Lamb, $5,000; D.A.B. Constructors, $3,000; Crystal Aero Group, $1,000; school board member Linda Powers, $30; Rolling Oaks Utilities, $1,000; Mary Hedges, chairwoman of the Nature Coast EMS board of directors, $250. The first donation listed is $1,000 from Capt. Tom Davis, the retired fixed-base operator at the Crystal River Airport, who is also the candidate’s father.

Candidate’s contribution: $10,000

Expenses include: Marketing, campaign materials

Of note: Davis and her opponent have nearly the same number of contributors, but over a much different time span. Davis opened her campaign account in January, seven months after the incumbent opened his.

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Candidate: Jimmie T. Smith

Office: County Commission District 5

Total collected: $34,277

Total spent: $14,495

Number of contributors: 120

Number of $1,000 contributions: 23

Noteworthy donors: D.A.B. Constructors, $5,000; Beverly Hills Development Corp., $2,000; Inverness attorney Clark Stillwell, $250; Inverness Councilwoman Linda Bega, $100; auto dealer Steve Lamb $3,000; Citrus Hills Construction, $1,000; Citrus County Hospital Board attorney Bill Grant, $1,000; James Dozier, Grant’s law partner, $1,000.

Candidate’s contribution: $100

Expenses include: $1,475 to an Inverness accountant to prepare and file campaign reports; $1,500 to Nicholas Lahara for campaign consulting.

Of note: Building on Your Dreams, a PAC chaired by Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson, donated $500 to Smith’s campaign.

****************************************************

Candidate: Ginger Bryant

Office: School Board District 2

Total collected: $8,400

Total spent: $6,139

Number of contributors: 10

Number of $1,000 contributions: None

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $7,450

Expenses include: Signs, advertising

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: Danielle Damato Doty

Office: School Board District 2

Total collected: $17,720

Total spent: $1,415

Number of contributors: 14

Number of $1,000 contributions: Seven

Noteworthy donors: D.A.B. Constructors, $3,000

Candidate’s contribution: $10,000

Expenses include: $1,415 ballot qualifying fee.

Of note: Nothing stands out.

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Candidate: Mark Garlock

Office: School Board District 2

Total collected: $1,290

Total spent: $929

Number of contributors: 10

Number of $1,000 contributions: None

Noteworthy donors: None

Candidate’s contribution: $865.20

Expenses include: Website, campaign signs

Of note: Nothing stands out.

— Source: Citrus County Supervisor of Elections

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.