St. Petersburg's own Watergate?

By Times staff writers
Published October 26, 2005

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Ed Helm is beefing up security after an attempted break-in to his campaign headquarters. He announced he is posting Web security cameras to guard his campaign signs to ensure they don't get stolen.

According to his Web site, www.edhelm.com the mayoral candidate plans to prosecute anyone who steals his signs, using video from the Web cameras as evidence. No word on what will happen if the Web cams are snatched.

A campaign worker arrived at the storefront, 3914 Sixth St. S, last Friday and noticed that a small panel in the building's wooden back door had been cut out. A mesh screen covering the back door also was slashed.

It did not appear anyone entered, nor was anything tampered with or stolen, Helm said. Helm is running against incumbent Mayor Rick Baker in St. Petersburg's Nov. 8 city election.

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SPENDING HIS MONEY: Aside from getting Web cameras installed, Helm also is making good on his promise to spend $50,000 on his quest to unseat Baker.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Helm loaned $32,500 to his campaign coffers in the past month. In all, he has raised $59,776. Baker has a war chest of $149,683, none of it from his own pocket.

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DOWN TO THE WIRE: In other campaign finance news, three City Council candidates have broken the $20,000 mark.

Darden Rice, who is running for the District 6 seat, has the largest war chest with $32,829. Incumbent Earnest Williams isn't far behind with $25,653. District 2 council member John Bryan has raised $31,161, more than twice as much as challenger Eve Joy, who is reporting $13,822, including $9,500 of her own money.

In District 4, council member Virginia Littrell raised $14,795 while challenger Leslie Curran has $10,851. In District 8, Jeff Danner has $10,740 and Jamie Mayo has $1,138.

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BIG NUMBERS: He's not in Congress (yet), but state Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, has already emerged as a national leader - in fundraising.

No candidate for an open U.S. House seat has more money on hand than the son of outgoing Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, CQ Politics Weekly found.

In fact, four of the top 10 best-financed open seat candidates are Floridians, and two of them are Republicans running to succeed Katherine Harris in Florida congressional District 13:

Gus Bilirakis-R, (District 9): $567,779 cash on hand ($741,000 raised). First on the list.

Vern Buchanan-R, (District 13): $471,812 cash on hand. Third on the list.

Tramm Hudson-R, (District 13): $310,466. Sixth on the list.

Kathy Castor-D, (District 11): $300,924. Seventh on the list.

Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Ron Klein tops the list of candidates nationwide challenging incumbents, with $839,816 cash on hand to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw.

Bilirakis, 42, raised $194,000 between July and September. Compare that to the account balances of other candidates in the race: Republican David Langheier of East Lake finished the quarter with $66; Democrat Greg Rublee of Oldsmar had $50,222; Democrat Bill Mitchell of Tampa had $8,787. Democrat Fred Taylor of New Port Richey jumped into the race after that quarter ended, and Democrat Phyllis Busansky is expected to announce her candidacy today.

Carrie Johnson, Nicole Johnson, Aaron Sharockman and Adam C. Smith contributed to this week's Political Junkie. Contact the staff at politicaljunkie@sptimes.com