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Jamie Grant grows fundraising lead over challenger, Jessica Harrington

Grant is tapping big donors while Harrington is staying local.

Rep. Jamie Grant is continuing to rake in donations for his reelection campaign.

Grant raised nearly $28,000, bringing his total raised this year to $74,250. Grant’s potential challengers, Jessica Harrington, raised $7,061, and Alexander McDonald has raised less than $3,500 since entering the race in September.

Harrington, a Democrat, has been waging a long-shot campaign against the Republican incumbent in a red district. The difference in how the two candidates are bringing in their money paints a vivid picture of a powerful and connected incumbent versus a grassroots progressive with broad community support.

In the month of October, the most recent month for which campaign finance reports are available, Grant collected a total of 40 contributions. They average $707 each. Harrington’s campaign stands in stark contrast, collecting 89 contributions at an average of just $79 each. Harrington’s donors represent Democratic Party regulars who often contribute to campaigns — people like attorney Erin Aebel and engineer Jim Shirk.

Grant’s contributions are rolling in by way of $1,000 checks from large corporations, businesses and special interest groups. Grant’s high-roller contributors include two arms of Disney — Disney Vacation Development and Disney Destinations — Kimmins Contracting Corp. and its founder, Joseph Williams, Oxford Exchange owner and mega-McDonald’s franchise owner Blake Casper, RSA Consulting Group, a lobbying firm affiliated with Ron Pierce, Verizon, Frontier Communications and the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

Not a single business, political committee or special interest group contributed to Harrington’s campaign in October and almost every single donation originated from a Tampa Bay area resident. Only one contribution came from out of state and only three others from outside the Tampa Bay region.

Some of Harrington’s notable contributors include former University of South Florida President Betty Castor, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, former Florida Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, Hillsborough County Commission candidate Sky White, former St. Petersburg City Council candidate Orlando Acosta, Safety Harbor Mayoral candidate Tanja Vidovic and state House candidate Julie Jenkins. All are forward-facing Democrats.

Harrington, a local public schoolteacher, has been fiercely campaigning, but she has a major challenge ahead. House District 64, the seat she’s running for, has 6,795 more registered Republicans than Democrats on the Hillsborough side of the District. Republicans make up 39 percent of the total electorate in the district, compared to just 31 percent for Democrats. In the sliver of Pinellas County the district represents, Republicans outweigh Democrats by about 4,000 voters.

She’s also forced to wage a primary campaign against McDonald who, though his fundraising is sluggish so far, already includes a $100 contribution from Harrington herself as part of a pledge the two are making to keep their campaigns focused on ousting Grant, not hurting each other.

Meanwhile, Grant still has more than $45,000 left to spend, more than Harrington has raised by nearly double. Harrington has just $13,000 left in the bank to wage a campaign against an incumbent political insiders view as virtually unbeatable.

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 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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