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Politics

Newcomers raise most funds

Richard Rober doesn't mind if you call him low-profile. After all, he has never held a political office. When he attends City Council meetings, he rarely speaks.

By CAMILLE C. SPENCER
Published March 28, 2007


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PORT RICHEY - Richard Rober doesn't mind if you call him low-profile.

After all, he has never held a political office. When he attends City Council meetings, he rarely speaks. The most some know about him is that he's on a city committee and owns a local business.

But with the April 10 election just two weeks away, Rober has quietly amassed the biggest trove of contributions.

Rober, 47, raised $8,747.54 as of March 23, the last time candidates were required to report contributions.

Second to Rober is City Council candidate Mark Hashim, who raised $7,532. Stephen Johnston, running against Rober for the mayor's seat, is a close third with $7,385.

Last in contributions is Phyllis Grae, the incumbent hoping to retain her seat on the City Council. Grae has raised $1,850 so far. Of that, $1,000 was from her own pocket, and $500 was from council member Nancy Britton.

In most elections, including the Port Richey race, candidates loan money to themselves, hold fundraisers and spend hundreds of dollars on signs and mailers that outline their platform.

But campaign contributions can also shed light on a candidate's interests and who's contributing to their campaign.

With the April 10 ballot also including a nonbinding referendum on whether the city of 3,200 should dissolve, Rober is a stark supporter of keeping the city. So is Grae.

Johnston and Hashim are outspoken supporters of dissolution.

Rober's contributions are from private citizens who support keeping the city and from local business owners, ranging from a pipe supply company to an auto shop.

Rober gave himself a $250 contribution and accepted $500 from his utilities company, Gator Water & Wastewater Management.

Laurie Simpson, a Rober supporter, donated $50 in cash and $361.66 in in-kind donations to his campaign.

"He's a fair person," she said. "We need him for the city to come together, for it to survive."

Johnston said the majority of his contributions came from residents in his and Hashim's neighborhood of Harborpointe.

"I got enough money there to where I didn't have to go out," he said. "People knew me there and they said, 'Hey, we appreciate you taking time and effort out to run.' "

Johnston, a radiologist, contributed $500 to his own campaign. Hashim, an anesthesiologist who works in Lecanto, gave himself a $190 contribution.

Both Hashim and Johnston accepted $150 donations from Naturecoast Pain Associates, where Hashim works.

Alene Burke, a Port Richey resident, donated $100 to both Johnston and Hashim.

"I think they have a high level of integrity," she said. "I think they are insightful and willing to do the job that the people want done without deviation."

The next campaign finance reports are due April 6, four days before the election.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at 727 869-6229 or cspencer@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

Meet the candidates

[Last modified March 28, 2007, 00:02:30]


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