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By Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is co-hosting a fundraiser next week for Kevin Beckner, a Democrat who's challenging Republican Brian Blair for his Hillsborough County Commission seat. Castor served with Blair on the commission before winning her congressional post.
Among the other Beckner backers listed on the invitation: State Democratic Party chairwoman Karen Thurman; Tampa City Council members Gwen Miller, Linda Saul-Sena and Mary Mulhern; state Rep. Betty Reed; and state Sen. Charlie Justice.
Mulhern said Beckner's experience as a financial analyst makes him a strong candidate.
"And he's running a really great campaign. I think he can beat Brian Blair," Mulhern said.
Political consultant Mitch Kates, who helped Mulhern beat Republican City Council member Shawn Harrison in March, is working for Beckner.
Beckner has raised about $53,000 so far. Blair has raised more than $120,000. Blair also has a Republican challenger: Don Kruse. He's raised $1,000.
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Former Plant City Mayor John Dicks has announced he's challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis for the 9th Congressional District seat. In his first campaign e-mail, Dicks, a Democrat, touches on energy independence, the need for middle-class tax cuts and ending deficit spending.
Bilirakis has two other opponents. Bill Mitchell, also a Democrat, is a lawyer and veteran with a particular interest in helping homeless veterans and improved health care at VA hospitals. Richard O. Emmons, who identifies himself as a member of the Term Limits for the United States Congress Party, has also filed to run against Bilirakis.
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Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder has been making noise about local campaign finance reform ever since he emerged from an expensive, nasty and close race against challenger Julie Brown in March.
He's hosting a meeting to discuss reform ideas on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at South Tampa's Kate Jackson recreation center, 821 S. Rome Avenue.
Among the amendments Dingfelder wants to make to the city charter:
-Reduce maximum allowed contributions to at-large council candidates from $500 to $200.
-Reduce maximum allowed contributions to district candidates from $500 to $100.
-Prohibit contributions from corporate entities so only individuals could make donations to council races.
Dingfelder also wants to explore eliminating soft money from council races altogether, or require that political action committees provide more timely reporting of donor contributions and expenditures.
Dingfelder said contributions to City Council races more than doubled from about $550,000 in 2003 to $1.2-million in 2007.
"It's not like the city's grown," he said. "Inflation doesn't count for that." Dingfelder said out-of-control campaign spending makes voters think elections are "all about the money."
"People are losing faith in their government," he said. "We should do something about that at the local level."
[Last modified February 23, 2008, 23:55:28]