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Update on the money race in in Tampa Bay legislative races

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Six months out from Election Day, the Senate seats races in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are in much the same condition they were in March.

Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee and Bill Galvano are still running unopposed in their newly redrawn districts, and in SD19 first-term Rep. Ed Narain continues to build on his fundraising lead over fellow Democratic Rep. Darryl Rouson and former Rep. Betty Reed.

The only major change on the Senate side since March was the May 2 entry of Democrat Bob Buesing in the SD 18 race against Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young.

Rumors of a challenger did wonders for Young’s April fundraising numbers, however, which surpassed $50,000 for the first time this year. After a modest amount of expenses, Young finished the month with about $260,000 on hand in her campaign account.

Most House Republicans are doing just as well, with incumbent GOP lawmakers Jake Raburn, Jamie Grant and Chris Sprowl cruising through another month without opposition and Reps. Chris Latvala, Larry Ahern and Dan Raulerson each trouncing their opponents in fundraising.

The story wasn’t the same for incumbent Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters, who was outraised last month by Democrat Jennifer Webb in her first month in the campaign.

While Peters still holds the overall edge in fundraising with more than $114,000 cash on hand, Webb brought in about $25,000 after filing April 7 and only spent $4,000.

Republican Reps. Ross Spano and Shawn Harrison, who are both facing tough re-election battles, came through with big fundraising numbers in April, but for Spano it wasn’t enough to take back the lead in the HD 59 race.

After posting a $20,000 haul last month, the incumbent Republican’s war chest sits at about $72,000 compared to about $77,000 for Democratic attorney Rena Upshaw-Frazier, who took the lead in March. The other Democrat in the race, schoolteacher Golnaz Sahebzamani, added $926 in April for an on hand total of $21,368 since filing in July 2015.

Over in District 63, Harrison narrowly bested Democrat Lisa Montelione with $21,270 in April contributions compared to $19,490 for the Tampa City Council member. After expenditures, Harrison holds the overall cash on hand lead with $104,000, while Montelione has a little over $58,000. The second Democrat running in the swing district, Mike Reedy, had $16,411 in his campaign account heading into May.

The Bay area got a fourth open seat last month when St. Petersburg Democrat Dwight Dudley announced last month he wouldn’t seek re-election in HD68, setting up another hotly contested election in the 2016 cycle.

Democrat Ben Diamond entered the race shortly after Dudley’s exit and was able to bring in $28,366 the last six days of April. He already has a primary challenger, however, as Eric Lynn announced this month he would drop his campaign against former Gov. Charlie Crist in Congressional District 13 to run for the seat. Joseph Bensmihen, a Republican, also filed to run for Dudley’s seat in April, but has not yet reported any campaign contributions.

The other open seats – HD 60, HD 61 and HD 70 – also look like primary battles, with Democrat Sean Shaw holding a comfortable lead over Dianne Hart and newly filed candidate Walter Smith in the HD61 race, and St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton holding a small lead over Dan Fiorini in the HD 70 contest.

The open seat with the most action remains HD 60, where small-business owner Jackie Toledo is duking it out with A.D. Morgon Corp. founder Rebecca Smith in the battle for Rep. Young’s House seat.

Smith leads her opponent with $97,538 in the bank after raising $31,075 in April, though Toledo is not far behind with $83,498 cash on hand at the end of the month, including $25,000 in loans.

The pair were bested by newly filed Democrat David Singer, however, who posted a $47,450 haul after filing for the seat on April 7. Though the seat has a GOP lean Singer could prove to be a major threat, especially if Smith or Toledo get bloodied by a drawn out primary battle.

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.

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