St. Petersburg City Council candidate John Hornbeck is racking up fines for failing to submit his latest campaign finance report on time.
Reports for July 27-Aug. 2 were due by close of business Friday. As of Monday morning, Hornbeck still had not turned in that report.
Under state statute governing campaigns, late reports within 60 days of an election incur a $500 per-day late fine. Fines are capped at 25 percent of the amount raised.
Hornbeck didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but later called to say the late filing was a mistake. He told Florida Politics he submitted his report Thursday, but didn’t follow up to confirm it had been received. He said he paid the fine Monday afternoon. Confirmation of that with the City Clerk is pending.
As of 1 p.m. Monday Hornbeck’s latest campaign finance report was still not available. Hornbeck told Florida Politics he raised $700 and paid a $175 fine for filing the report late.
Still, the late filing raises questions about Hornbeck’s seriousness as a candidate.
As it stands, Hornbeck had already showed lackluster motivation. As of July 26, the St. Pete attorney had raised just $3,720. His opponent, Robert Blackmon raised about $26,000 as of the same date.
Blackmon has also been aggressively amassing endorsements including from several incumbent City Council members and local civic and professional groups. Hornbeck hasn’t announced any endorsements.
This comes despite a huge opportunity. Early last month Scott Orsini dropped out of the race amid controversy over past tweets many saw as insensitive. Orsini, a Democrat, had been the frontrunner in the race.
His departure left Hornbeck, also a Democrat, facing Blackmon, who is a Republican. While City Council races are technically non-partisan, many voters pay attention to political affiliation when deciding who to support.
Hornbeck failed to capitalize on that potential advantage.
In an interview with Florida Politics after Orsini’s departure from the race, Hornbeck dismissed that failure, arguing he was taking his time to ensure proper messaging before soliciting contributions or endorsements. He claimed his time was coming.
But since that conversation nearly a month ago, Hornbeck has not delivered. He said he expected about $1,600 in contributions — $1,000 from his father and another $600 from other donors. His father had already contributed $1,000, which is the maximum allowable under Florida law. The $600 did not come to fruition.
The fines Hornbeck is facing for failing to turn in his latest campaign finance reports on time must be paid from his personal finances, not from his campaign account. Hornbeck reported annual income of less than $24,000 on his financial disclosure. That means his fine amounts to half of his monthly income.
Meanwhile, Blackmon raised more in one week than Hornbeck has throughout his entire campaign. Blackmon raised $2,250 from July 27-August 2. While Hornbeck has raised roughly $3,700, $2,000 of that came from a personal loan to his campaign. Another $1,000 came from his father.
Whatever Hornbeck’s reason for his late filing, the state of Florida does not allow fines to be waived. Hornbeck has to pay the fine to the city of St. Petersburg. The funds will then be remitted to the state.
Hornbeck and Blackmon will not appear on the Aug. 27 primary election ballot because they are the only two candidates in the race. Instead they’ll appear on the Nov. 5 citywide general election ballot.
The two are running to replace Charlie Gerdes in District 1 representing west St. Petersburg; Gerdes is term limited.