Palmetto’s municipal elections were decided in mid-June when none of the three incumbents received a challenger after qualifying concluded. But Bradenton’s elections are just getting started.
Three incumbents are outpacing their challengers in campaign fund raising, especially in the mayoral contest and Ward 1, all of which will be decided in the Nov. 8 general election. While financial support can sometimes indicate where a candidate stands with voters, it doesn’t necessarily decide an election.
Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett said there are multiple reasons people contribute.
“You could have a candidate that has been in the business community for a great deal of time and will have a much larger net worth of people than someone else,” said Bennett. “Sometimes people contribute because of long-term friendships or just because they don’t like the other person.”
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Bennett said everybody has their own reasons for contributing, and sometimes it’s because they believe they’ll get something out of their contribution — or it’s simple political philosophy along party lines, even in nonpartisan races.
Money doesn’t always win.
Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett
“Money doesn’t always win,” said Bennett. “I’ve seen far less-funded candidates win elections because that person spends a ton of time talking to people and going door to door.”
Who has the financial advantage
But money helps, especially for advertising to get their message efficiently to the masses. Incumbent four-term Mayor Wayne Poston has a stark advantage going into the first month after June’s qualifying. Poston raised $85,325 thus far and has only spent $2,509.
Poston filed in January and raised $3,000 in the first few days from local businesses. He raised $11,100 in February and with the help of a fund-raising event in March, raised another $53,750.
He had 21 $500 donors that month, including Manatee Memorial, Waste Pro and a variety of businesses, attorneys and political action committees. He had several $1,000 donors in the same time period, including from firefighter associations in Miami, Orlando and other areas of the state.
Local business owners and developers make up a good portion of his funds. In April, Poston raised $11,825 with $5,000 coming from members of the Benderson Development family. Poston spent his largest amount in April with a $1,500 expenditure to KD Logistics Inc. for campaign fund-raising expenses.
$85,325 The most money raised by a Bradenton candidate, raised by Mayor Wayne Poston
$1,205 The least amount of money raised by a Bradenton candidate, mayoral candidate Eleuterio Salzar Jr.
$10,340 The most money spent by a Bradenton candidate, Ward 5 candidate Keenan Wooten
$53,750 The most raised in a single month, Mayor Wayne Poston
$195,374 The total amount contributed to Bradenton candidates
$25,497 The total amount candidates have spent thus far
Four-time former mayor Bill Evers, who has lost to Poston twice, filed just before qualifying deadline in June. He shows $10,600, of which $10,000 is his own money. Evers has spent $637, with $618 to the elections office for an assessment fee.
Former Bradenton deputy chief Warren Merriman has raised $5,566 since filing in February. He loaned $1,500 to his own campaign. A portion of his overall funds, $925, has come from relatives of his wife, Devon Davis, who is a candidate for Ward 1.
Included in Merriman’s totals are in-kind donations of $570 from the Lost Kangaroo Pub that provided the venue for a campaign event. His wife also donated $667 in kind for printed waistbands. Merriman has spent $1,610 on mostly campaign materials and $618 to pay his mayoral qualifying fee, as well as $326 on web services.
Eleuterio Salazar Jr. sits in last place with a total of $1,205 raised. Salazar was the first to file in December, and his best month was in January with a $500 donation from Mr. Tequila Restaurant. He has in-kind donations of $350 for fitness training and $800 for entertainment and sound system.
Salazar has spent $1,150 on campaign mailers, printing and $497 on a marketing firm.
Ward 5 election
Ward 5 features incumbent Harold Byrd Jr., who held office from 1989 to 1996 and was reelected again in 2007, and challenger Keenan Wooten. Byrd has overtaken Wooten in fund raising despite filing much later.
Byrd has raised $14,315 to Wooten’s $12,196 and has spent significantly less at $988 to Wooten’s $10,340. Byrd has raised almost all of his money in the past three months with more than $5,000 in May and almost $7,000 in June.
His significant donors are from the construction, property management and insurance fields. All of his spending has been directed toward campaign materials.
Wooten donated $4,825 to his own campaign with a significant portion of his totals coming from private citizens. He has spent $7,300 on campaign consulting and $346 on a campaign kick-off event. He has attended 13 various luncheons, breakfasts, dinners and other expenditures on things like a gala ticket, golf tournament and a 5K run totaling over $800.
Ward 1 election
Three candidates are vying for the Ward 1 seat with incumbent Councilman Gene Gallo outpacing his challengers with $48,340. Davis has raised $9,201 with Tamara Goudy raising $5,626.
Gallo had his biggest month in February when he reversed an earlier decision to retire and decided to run for the seat he has held since the mid-1990s. He raised $23,300 in February and followed it up with $11,265 in March. He raised about $14,000 in the past three months.
Gallo is heavily supported by firefighters, developers and other business owners. Thus far, he has spent $1,911 on campaign materials and a $317 qualifying fee.
Davis, who filed in January, has loaned $5,000 to her own campaign and has received several hundred dollars from relatives and in-kind donations on her husband’s website for advertising. Davis has spent $1,976 largely on campaign materials.
Goudy has spent $4,660 of her campaign funds largely on campaign materials and a campaign event.