Sanchez leads money race
By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- Frank Sanchez, a business consultant who moved to Tampa last year, has raised about $377,000 since he announced five months ago that he was running for mayor.
That is $155,000 more than City Council member Bob Buckhorn, who has spent years preparing for this race, and $268,000 more than Council Chairman Charlie Miranda, who has been in city politics since 1974.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Chris Hart, who entered the race in April, has raised $24,000.
Voters won't choose the next mayor until March. But money, the mother's milk of politics, provides an early indicator of how candidates are doing.
Sanchez's war chest has moved him from political unknown to major contender.
"It's a loud and clear signal that here is a formidable candidate in the race," said political analyst Susan MacManus, a professor at the University of South Florida. "Everyone has to jump through the hoops. They cannot rely on old connections and name recognition. They are going to have to work hard."
Sanchez, a Tampa native, credits his fast start to his fresh face and ideas.
Nearly 2,000 people have either contributed to his campaign or volunteered, he said. About half of his supporters gave $100 or less.
But Sanchez's contributor list also includes the names of many of Tampa's elite, including businessman Edward DeBartolo Jr., lawyer Barry Cohen, car dealer James Ferman Jr., former County Administrator Fred Karl, tire dealer Olin Mott, developer Mandell Shimberg, banker David Straz, executive John Sykes, retired rancher Bob Thomas, banker Bronson Thayer and businessman Don Wallace, who owns the Lazy Days R.V. Super Center.
People who gave $500, the maximum campaign contribution allowed by law, accounted for 64 percent of the money Sanchez has raised. Nearly one-third of Sanchez's contributors gave the maximum.
Adam Goodman, a political consultant working on Buckhorn's campaign, says elections are about more than campaign contributions.
"All the money in the world won't buy Mr. Sanchez one day of experience," Goodman said. "While he has been raising money, Bob Buckhorn has been raising the stakes on the value of experience and the value of ideas."
Buckhorn has raised $222,000 after a year of fundraising.
Miranda, who has raised $109,000, said he doesn't need to raise as much money because voters know him from decades of public service.
When he announced for mayor, "I said I will be part of an election, not part of an auction, and I meant it," Miranda said. "I have done a lot of things for the city. I don't have to sell myself and create some kind of euphoric feeling in the campaign."
Hart, the only Republican in the nonpartisan race, has raised much of his money from loyal party supporters. But some are questioning whether he is serious about his campaign.
Margie Kincaid, chairman of the Hillsborough Republican Party, said Hart hasn't appeared at local candidate forums or returned calls.
"I never see him. I never hear anything," Kincaid said. "It's puzzling."
Hart said he has been busy working on water and transportation issues that affect people's lives.
"I spend time doing my job," Hart said. "That is called government and that is called leadership."
A fifth candidate in the race, fitness author Don Ardell, hasn't raised a cent. He said he will refuse donations until September.
"We think the early part of the campaign should be devoted to ideas and the development of platforms," Ardell said. "Campaigns are too drawn out, too expensive and too overly (dependent) on fundraising. They are also too boring because there is too little attention to ideas."
-- Times staff writer David Karp can be reached at (813) 226-3376 or email@example.com
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