Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp stepped up her fundraising game in the latest two-week reporting period, bringing in more than $15,000.
The sudden surge comes as Kemp now faces a credible threat to her reelection in what amounts to an incumbent on incumbent battle.
District 1 Commissioner Sandra Murman is facing term-limits, but a county rule allows incumbents to skirt term limits by running in another district, a rule that has for years seen commissioners swapping seats to stay in office.
Murman didn’t have anyone to swap with this year, so instead she filed on June 11, just one day before the qualifying deadline, to take on her Democratic colleague.
The latest reporting period began just two days after that and Kemp’s new determination shows in her fundraising activity.
She brought in 75 contributions averaging $205 each. Among those, the local Democratic Executive Committee kicked in $5,000, an amount in excess of the $1,000 individual contribution limit because it came from a party.
If Murman were to unseat Kemp, Republicans could regain a 4-3 majority as long as a Republican managed to hold onto Murman’s current District 1 seat, though the seat has been reliably Democratic for years, held previously by Kevin Beckner.
Democrats are in prime position to retake District 1 with former City Council member Harry Cohen far out-raising the two Republican candidates in that race. That makes Murman’s bid extra-crucial for the local GOP. If Kemp holds District 6 and Republicans lose District 1, Democrats would have an even more solid 5-2 majority.
Kemp got a boost from a number of players in Democratic politics including $500 from former Commissioner Betty Castor, $250 each from former Tampa City Attorney Jim Shimberg, former House candidate Bob Buesing, All For Transportation co-chair Christina Barker and Kemp’s ex-husband and WMNF executive Randy Wynne. Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend also donated $100.
But even with the new momentum, Murman enters her first full campaign finance reporting period with a sizable advantage. After transferring $177,000 from the Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts race where Murman had funds parked for months, she now has nearly $195,000 raised, with $129,000 of that still on hand.
Kemp has just $74,000 left in the bank.
Though, if Kemp maintains her momentum and Murman doesn’t build hers, that gap could be filled in the coming weeks and months ahead of the Nov. 3 general election where the two will square off.
Murman took in just $1,500 during the latest reporting period covering June 13-26. That includes $500 each from Kathleen Shanahan, a prominent GOP donor, and Potomac Land Company and $250 each from Raulerson Castillo & Co. CPA firm and PR professional Patrick Baskette.
The District 6 seat is countywide, which gives Democrats a nearly 75,000 voter advantage. But more than 261,000 voters are not affiliated with a party or registered with a third-party. Murman has, especially in recent weeks managing the coronavirus crisis, positioned herself as a moderate Republican.
Kemp, meanwhile, is considered a progressive Democrat. That distinction could poise Murman to capitalize on the independent vote, which will likely make the difference in this race.