Larry Ahern momentum not enough to catch Janet Long in money race

Janet Long
The GOP doesn't seem to be lining up for Ahern.

Former Rep. Larry Ahern’s attempts to surge in his last-minute entrance into a Pinellas County Commission are not yet bearing fruit.

The ultra-conservative Trump Republican is running against incumbent Democrat Janet Long for the District 1 County Commission seat.

He raised $7,045 during the most recent two-week reporting period covering activity June 13-26. Long raised $8,675.

The totals are even more staggered with Long having brought in more than $80,000 to date compared to Ahern’s $13,545.

His last-minute entry raised questions about whether or not the GOP establishment would line up to get him elected to a seat Long, a Democrat, has held since 2012.

That doesn’t seem to be happening. Long took in 29 total contributions in the latest report, averaging about $299 each. Among her contributors are donors who most would expect to be offering their financial support to a Republican.

Former House Speaker Dean Cannon chipped in $500. His law firm ponied up another $1,000.

Another conservative donor, Kathleen Shanahan, contributed $250. Eileen Morroni, the widow of late Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni, a moderate Republican, donated $200.

Meanwhile, Ahern’s donors were absent any major GOP donors, with the exception of former Sen. Dennis Baxley, a fellow far-right conservative. He donated $500 to Ahern’s campaign.

Neither Ahern nor Long will face a primary challenger this year, giving Ahern until November to play cash catch-up.

He’s got a long way to go.

Ahern has just less than $7,500 on hand while Long retains about $68,000 of her cash.

Democrats currently enjoy a 4-3 majority on the commission. Both Long and District 3 Democrat Charlie Justice are facing Republican challengers this cycle.

Justice drew Bark Life owner Tammy Sue Vasquez who appears to have a stronger shot at flipping the commission red despite her lack of previous name recognition.

Vasquez drew a hearty following in recent weeks as she lobbied the commission to overturn a coronavirus-related closure on pet grooming businesses, a process that left her and others disheartened with what they perceived as government overreach.

Vasquez has already raised more than $24,000 for her race, only $10,000 less than Justice. While she hasn’t seen any direct contributions from big names in GOP politics, she brought in $1,000 from Rep. Chris Latvala’s Suncoast Better Government political committee and another $1,000 from the Foundation for Freedom PC, which is affiliated with former Rep. Jim Frishe.

Given Justice’s slow fundraising and Vasquez’s momentum, the GOP might be eyeing that seek as a more likely take-over.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

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 [email protected]


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