Developer Joel Cantor considering challenge to U.S. Rep. David Jolly

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With candidate qualifying for this year’s congressional elections beginning today and ending Friday, a very interesting name has emerged as a possible challenger in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

According to one of the state’s leading Democratic fundraisers, developer and real estate investor Joel Cantor is interested in challenging Republican David Jolly this November.

This same source — a source who was helpful to me in breaking the news that Alex Sink would run in the special election in CD-13 — said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was meeting with Cantor last Friday.

The DCCC confirmed Monday morning that Cantor is indeed looking at running.

“Congressman David Jolly has been in office just over a month and he’s already facing a backlash from Pinellas residents for breaking his hollow campaign promises,” said DCCC spokesman David Bergstein. “Joel Cantor is one of several strong potential candidates w‎ho are taking a serious look at this race.”

I’m still checking on Cantor’s political status and residency, but he does own a condo near the Do Cesar on St. Pete Beach.

All of this said, Cantor appears to be a reluctant candidate and only interested in running if the DCCC can assure him that the field is cleared for him to challenge Jolly. Even then, Cantor is said to be hesitant about putting his private-sector work on hold to run for public office.

Cantor is the principal owner of Cantor + Partners LLC, and is referred to by colleagues and the media as “the ultimate finisher,” who is a specialty real estate specialist with more than one-half billion dollars in various active projects.

In Tampa Bay, Cantor is best known as the developer of the Signature Place condominium tower in St. Petersburg.

Cantor began in 1989 as chief executive and founder of Cantor Real Estate Funds. Over the following twenty-five years, Cantor would invest in a wide range of commercial, residential and retail projects; dozens of them valued in excess $500 million dollars.

As an undergraduate, Cantor went to both the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Copenhagen; he majored in both International Finance and Mandarin Chinese. Cantor also attended the Wharton School of Business, earning his MBA in real-estate finance and graduating in 1990 in the top 5 percent of his class.

After working Wall Street for five years, first with Chase Manhattan Bank and then real estate finance investment-banking group at Salomon Brothers, Cantor was hired at Trammel Crow Company, the venerable Dallas-based real estate development, investment and operations firm.

Cantor got his start in the Tampa Bay area with Trammel Crow, taking an extensive role in creating the financing package for the $100 million Florida Aquarium in Tampa. Once the Aquarium project was successfully underway, Cantor began working on his own in 1990, by purchasing dozens of commercial projects offered through the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Cantor then established a reputation as a “finisher” by completing a series of tremendously successful creative and detailed management projects. His firm had constructed and renovated 43 developments, each valued at about one half billion dollars each, and utilizing some of the world’s most celebrated architects. Many of Cantor’s high-profile ventures are found in Las Vegas, Florida, and the Caribbean.

His landmark structure, the $200 million Signature Place Tower project on the St. Petersburg waterfront, was proclaimed the tallest and most expensive private project in Tampa Bay.

More notably, it was the only successful development created during the beginning of Great Recession of 2008.

In 2012, Signature Place was awarded Project-of-the-Year by the American Institute of Architects, and remains the headquarters of Cantor + Partners.

The same year, Cantor announced the formation of the Cantor Real Estate Income & Opportunity Fund, with $200 million in equity capital that is used to purchased distressed commercial real estate at below-replacement costs.

The new fund was one of a range of industries capitalizing on investment opportunities produced by the economic downturn.

Castor has supported a variety of philanthropic and enterprise organizations, including the global leadership organization World Presidents’ Organization (WPO), New York-based Africa-America Institute, the Wharton Global Economic Summit and the civic institute Leadership Florida.

Cantor also served on the 2005 US. Dept. of Defense Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, an orientation program that helps business and civic leaders gain a deeper understanding of the military and national defense issues. The JCOC is the oldest continuing Pentagon outreach program.

Cantor was recently named on the Top 25 People to Watch in 2012 by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. According to his Cantor + Partners bio, Cantor and his wife Shannon are outdoor enthusiasts and extensive travelers, having visited over 100 countries. The couple have four boys, and the family divides its time between Tampa Bay and Telluride, Colorado.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.