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Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, debates a bill on the Senate floor Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Tampa Bay

Jeff Brandes increases fundraising lead over Lindsay Cross

Sen. Jeff Brandes, the Republican incumbent in St. Petersburg’s District 24, has a massive lead at the bank over his challenger, Democrat Lindsay Cross.

Cross has not had anywhere near as much time to raise funds as Brandes — she entered the race late after Carrie Pilon withdrew abruptly, citing personal reasons. 

During the most recent reporting period of Sept. 1-14, Cross raised just $24,000. Brandes pulled in $44,000.

Now, Brandes has raised $866,000 to date, including rollover funds from previous campaigns. Cross has only pulled in $83,000.

In terms of cash on hand, Brandes has $458,000 left in his campaign coffers while Cross has just $71,000.

Cross has a steep climb to unseat Brandes, a popular Tampa Bay lawmaker. He has the benefit of robust name recognition.

In an interview with Florida Politics, Cross said she’s not worried: “I’m out there talking to the voters and my message is resonating.”

In a St. Pete Polls survey last month, Brandes held a 2-1 lead over Cross, but 42 percent of respondents were still undecided.

Cross has three priorities if elected: Improving public education funding, boosting environmental protection and expanding access to health care.

Cross wants better teacher pay and higher per-pupil spending in traditional public schools. Brandes has long been a supporter of school choice programs like charter schools and voucher programs.

School choice critics argue such programs divert money way from public education. Charter schools are publicly funded, but operated privately. Voucher programs use tax credits to fund scholarships for low income students to attend private school.

Cross could also do well campaigning on environmental issues as red tide continues to wreak havoc on Pinellas County beaches. The stench of rotting fish and toxins that make the air difficult to breathe have left beach businesses empty during recent weeks.

Many Democrats blame Republican-backed environmental policies for making the naturally occurring marine phenomenon even worse.

Brandes joined the majority of his party in voting to reject federal funding to expand Medicaid, something Cross said is not in the best interest of his constituents.

Still, Brandes has at times bucked against extreme conservative policy position in his party. He was a leader in pushing for medical marijuana and ‘right to try‘ measures, for example.

Brandes has also made a name for himself supporting innovation and technology and has been at the forefront in ensuring Florida is welcoming to the autonomous vehicle industry.

His sponsored bills ranging from including coding as a foreign language option for students, to establishing a framework to use delivery drones for on-demand purchases from places like convenience stores and local shops.

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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