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2020

It’s grassroots vs. big money between Jessica Harrington and Jamie Grant

Grant is raising big, but Harrington says not to count her out.

Rep. Jamie Grant continues to out-raise the two Democrats seeking to unseat him from his House District 64 seat. He closed out 2019 with more than $100,000 raised.

Grant, a Republican, will face one of two Democrats running — public school teacher Jessica Harrington or Alexander William McDonald, a veteran and recent University of South Florida graduate.

Grant raised $15,250 in December, bringing his total raised so far to $101,760.

Harrington raised just $2,100 in December, closing out her year with just shy of $28,000 raised.

McDonald’s December finance reports were not yet available as of Friday afternoon, but as of the end of November, he had raised just $3,556.

Grant’s fundraising lead is substantial and will make challenging him difficult, particularly in the conservative district that represents parts of north Pinellas and northwest Hillsborough. The trends in Harrington and Grant’s fundraising highlight how difficult it is to take on an incumbent in a district that favors their party.

Throughout 2019, Grant brought in 135 individual contributions averaging $758 a piece. Most of his contributions have been top-dollar $1,000 donations. Only two contributions were for less than $100.

Meanwhile, Harrington raised funds from 467 individual contributors with the average donation being just $60.

Tapping deep-pocketed donors lets candidates raise more for their campaigns while spending less money asking for checks.

But while it might be a long shot, Harrington hopes her message and grassroots support from voters will win over voters tired of elected officials beholden to special interests.

After the October campaign finance reports came out, Harrington posted a report about Grant’s fundraising lead lamenting that it was people, not money who mattered.

“This is going to be the story for the rest of the election: He has a ton of money and she doesn’t, therefore, he’s going to win. Wrong! We will beat him where it matters: on the ground, talking to voters,” Harrington wrote. “You can have all the money in the world, but at the end of the day people do not want a corrupt politician representing them. Donate here to help us stay in this fight!”

 

That month’s funding report showed Harrington had not raised a single dollar from a business, political committee or special interest group and that only one of her contributions came from out of state and just three from outside the Tampa Bay area.

That trend continued in December with just two contributions coming from outside the region and only one of those from out of state.

Both Harrington and McDonald will have an opportunity to bridge the funding gap. Incumbents are not allowed to raise funds during the 60-day Legislative Session, which begins next week.

But Harrington faces another uphill battle. Of her total earnings, she’s spent $15,000, leaving her with less than $13,000 in the bank.

Grant has spent $29,000 and has $73,000 cash on hand heading into Session.

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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