The next four days are some of the most important of the entire 2012 election cycle because they represent the final days of the second fundraising quarter. The campaign finance reports filed to reflect the money raised during this period is one of the last quarter poles of the campaign horse race by which a candidate can be assessed. PAC chairs, the media, lobbyists, and interest groups will be looking at how much money a candidate has raised (especially how much they’ve raised in the last 30 days) and how much they have spent.
Tonight, there are three fundraisers in Tampa: one for Jeff Brandes, one for Tom Lee and one for Scott Plakon. Here’s why these fundraisers matter beyond just dollars and cents. Here’s where shit stands.
Jeff Brandes for State Senate District 22 – at the Tampa Yacht Club
I don’t know if Jeff Brandes has ever had a more important fundraiser and not because he needs to raise a lot of money. Brandes can largely self-finance, so kudos to him for still putting on the dog-and-pony show. No, this fundraiser is important to Brandes because, in my opinion, the race between him and Jim Frishe may very well be decided in South Tampa.
See, Jim Frishe can count on deep support in the western portion of District 22, which includes many of the beach communities Frishe knows like the back of his hand. It’s presumed Brandes’ strength lies in the central part of the district, specifically the St. Petersburg neighborhoods he currently represents in the Florida House. If both of these assumptions are true, it means whoever wins the South Tampa portion of the district will win the seat (although the South Tampa part is not as big a slice of the pie as the Pinellas pieces.)
I genuinely believe Jeff Brandes’ strategy was to shock-and-awe Frishe in the first weeks after announcing he was running for State Senate. What has resulted, however, is a standstill. Brandes announced an endorsement from popular State Representative Dana Young and Frishe countered with one from popular County Commissioner Mark Sharpe. Brandes can tout support from Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman and Frishe can tout support from Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.
The key in all of this is Frishe’s brother, man-about-town Andy Graham, who has corralled broad support for Frishe. His support may turn out to be more critical than any elected official.
That’s what makes Brandes’ fundraiser in Tampa tonight so important. He needs a strong showing, or at least better than his previous event at Tom Pepin’s Hospitality Centre. (By the way, it’s no coincidence Pepin hosted a fundraiser for Frishe just last week; Pepin is said to be upset with Brandes raising money for his House campaign than turning around and running for the State Senate.)
One thing Brandes has in his favor tonight is the host committee involved with this event. Several of his colleagues in the Florida House agreed to lend their name, which only reinforces the importance of this event. Also on the host committee are political heavyweights Adam Goodman, Kathleen Shanahan and Nancy Watkins
Tom Lee for State Senate District 24 – at the Tampa Bay Times Forum
The host committee for Tom Lee’s event is a veritable who’s who of Hillsborough and Tampa politics. That’s no surprise considering Lee is the establishment’s choice for this seat. But did you notice the overlap between this host committee and the host committee for Jack Latvala’s recent event. It’s almost as if Latvala urged many of his supporters to help Lee, who could turn out to be a key vote for Latvala’s campaign for the Senate Presidency.
Scott Plakon for House District 30 – at the Tampa Club
Why is this fundraiser interesting? Well, Rep. Plakon is running against Karen Castor-Dentel, sister of US Rep. Betty Castor. Approximately two-thirds of the set they are competing for lies within Seminole County, with the rest is in Orange County, so it’s likely few of those in attendance at Plakon’s fundraiser can actually vote of him or Castor-Dentel.
Castor-Dentel vs. Plakon is one of the two or three most interesting legislative races in the state. The Orlando Sentinel has already described it as the “marquee” race in Central Florida.
That’s why you have to give credit to Plakon for coming to Tampa — home base of the Castor political clan — to raise money for his campaign.
I’ll try to make all three events tonight and offer a report back tomorrow.