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Deborah Figgs-Sanders continues funding lead over Trenia Cox

More than 18,000 voters have already cast a ballot.

St. Petersburg City Council candidate Deborah Figgs-Sanders will have more money to spend heading into the final week of campaigning ahead of next Tuesday’s election, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed with the city.

Figgs-Sanders raised $2,405 Oct. 12-18, bringing her total raised to $41,275. Her opponent, Trenia Cox, raised more during that one-week period, $3,270, but her total falls short of Figgs-Sanders at just $37,319.

Figgs-Sanders also has more cash on hand — $14,657 compared to Cox’s $8,795.

The money gap could be a big deal. As of Tuesday afternoon voter turnout in the election reached just 9.5 percent, meaning there are a lot of voters who have yet to return a ballot and could either still do so or opt to vote on Election Day.

Voter turnout is far higher among vote-by-mail voters than Election Day voters. Four years ago, the most recent similar city election, voter turnout reached 17.2 percent with 79 percent of ballots cast by mail.

While it’s possible many voters have already mailed their ballots but the Supervisor of Elections Office has yet to receive them — voters are recommended to mail ballots no later than one week before the election to ensure they arrive in time to be counted before polls close — it’s still a strong signal that there are plenty of votes remaining to be captured.

Figgs-Sanders and Cox’s District 5 race is the most competitive on the ballot.

Their race has come down, in large part, to partisanship. The two women have nearly identical platforms, emphasizing things like affordable and workforce housing, workforce development and environmental sustainability. One key difference has emerged, particularly from Figgs-Sanders supporters. That is, some of Cox’s financial contributors and supporters are either conservative figures or those who have political ties to former Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican.

That means even though both candidates are registered Democrats, Figgs-Sanders has become the de facto Democratic choice in the race. That’s evidenced by her most recent campaign contributions including $200 from the Greater Pinellas Democratic Club and $80 from the South St. Petersburg Democratic Club. Figgs-Sanders also picked up a $1,000 contribution from the local SEIU chapter, a union group that tends to support Democrats.

Cox’s contributions from conservative-aligned individuals and groups dropped off in the latest report. Her largest contribution came from St. Pete environmentalist Bud Risser who, other than recent objections to certain components of the city’s Complete Streets Program, has never been accused of having conservative allegiances.

Cox also received a $1,000 contribution from Blue Sky Communications, a real estate development group.

Cox finished first in a crowded primary in August, but Figgs-Sanders surged in a recent St. Pete Polls survey where she led Cox by 11 points.

There’s one more campaign finance report due before the election, which candidates must file by Friday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Any eligible voters in line by 7 p.m. can vote. The election is open citywide. The winner of the District 5 race will replace Steve Kornell who is leaving office because of term limits.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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