Darden Rice continues to top fundraising, collects more than $100K in April

DardenRice_Ken Welch
Ken Welch trailed, bringing in nearly $56K.

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice has once again topped fundraising this past month for the city’s contested mayoral race.

Rice reported her single highest month since the start of her campaign, collecting $108,805 during April between her campaign and her associated political committee, Friends of Darden Rice.

The next highest fundraiser in most recent finance disclosure period, which covers the month of April, was former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. Welch, who has often trailed close behind Rice in fundraising, raised about half that of his opponent this time around.

Welch raised $55,941 between his campaign and political committee, Pelican PAC.

Rice’s campaign account raked in $48,030 last month, including donations from about 140 individuals and a handful of businesses.

Her campaign saw about two dozen $1,000 donations from donors like Royal Palm Companies, along with owner and developer Daniel Kodsi, Third Lake Capital LLC, Thomas Sansone Family Trust, Troy Constructors, developer Mel Sembler and Craig Sher, executive chairman of The Sembler Company, and his associated company Sherkids Ltd.

Former Democratic state Representative and current Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson also dished out $500 to Rice’s campaign.

The City Council member’s associated PAC raised $60,775 last month from 27 contributors, including several who also donated to Rice’s campaign. Those donors include Royal Palm Companies and its owner, Kodsi, who each gave $5,000 to the PAC in April, as well as the Thomas Sansone Family Trust and Third Lake Capital, which also dished out $5,000 each.

Rice’s PAC also received three $1,000 donations associated with Sher, including from Sher Investments, AR-CHS LLC and Four-Sher Development Company.

Rice also saw another hefty spending period, dishing out $37,682 between both funding sources.

Her campaign spent $29,594 in April, including about $20,200 on consulting services, $4,250 on research, about $2,600 on office rent, $1,600 on processing fees and $500 on advertising.

Rice’s PAC spent far less than her campaign, only letting go of $8,088, which was primarily spent on consulting and processing fees.

Between her campaign and PAC, she has raised a total of $556,053 — the most of any candidate so far — and has spent $182,181. After expenditures, Rice is left with $373,870 on hand.

As for Welch, he saw his highest spending period so far, having previously held back on expenditures.

Welch’s campaign raised $33,410 in April, coming from about 60 individuals and just under 10 businesses.

Like Rice, his campaign saw about two dozen $1,000 donations, including from Feldman Equities, Crown Automotive Group, Covanta Energy, Tradewinds Island Resorts CEO Tim Bogott and Alden Beach Resort President Gary Renfrow.

Welch’s former colleague, Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard, also dished out $250 to Welch’s campaign.

Welch’s PAC raked in $22,531 this past month from 13 contributors, including a $5,000 donation from Third Lake Capital, which matched its contribution to Rice’s campaign. Welch’s PAC also received a $3,000 donation from lawyer Matt Towery and a $2,500 donation from Premier Eye Care.

Between his campaign and political committee, Welch had $17,223 worth of expenditures in April.

His campaign spent $11,361, including about $4,100 on printing, and $4,800 on consultation services. The remainder was spent on processing fees and campaign meetings.

Welch’s political committee spent $5,862 in the same timeframe, with $4,000 going to consulting services and the remainder directed at processing fees.

Since launching his campaign, Welch has raised $282,469 between both sources of funding, and has spent $39,052 total. Welch is left with $243,417 cash on hand.

Rice’s funding advantage comes largely thanks to time. Rice started fundraising more than two years ago while Welch didn’t launch his political committee until late 2019.

Following Rice and Welch in fundraising is Realtor Vincent Nowicki, who entered the race in late January. Nowicki raised $16,369 in April between his campaign and recently established political committee Friends of Vincent Nowicki.

His campaign raised $6,109 in April from nearly two dozen donors.

His associated political committee raised $10,250 in the same timeframe from three donors. This includes two $5,000 donations from real estate company Jeffrey Fusco LLC and Fiona’s Coin Laundry.

His campaign spent $3,213 this period, on processing fees and marketing. However, his PAC has yet to dish out any cash.

Nowicki, who has raised $33,367 so far between his campaign and associated PAC, is left with about $23,554 cash on hand.

Rice’s former colleague and former state Rep. Wengay Newton, who is also running, reported a weaker fundraising month. In an amended report filed Tuesday, Newton reported raising $8,039 — a notable increase from his original report, filed Monday, which incorrectly totaled $2,165 for April.

In his amended report, Newton reports 37 donors during April. This includes four $1,000 contributions from Foundation for Freedom PAC, Suncoast Better Government PAC, assisted living facility owner Theresa Putnam and local restauranteur Steve Westphal.

His campaign spent $6,894, primarily on printing services and other marketing tools. The amended report’s expenditures is also a hefty correction from the original report, which only presented a $36 expenditure.

Newton is currently left with about $8,681 cash on hand, a dismal amount for a candidate perceived to be among the top tier.

Candidate Michael Levinson, who entered the race in mid-February, reported $3,319 in self-funding in the month of April, but no expenditures.

University of South Florida St. Pete student Michael Ingram did not post any April financial activity by the deadline.

Candidate Marcile Powers, who filed to run on Feb. 1, reported raising $325, and $160 in expenditures.

The slew of candidates are running to succeed current Mayor Rick Kriseman who is leaving office due to term limits. The municipal Primary Election is Aug. 24. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to the General Election Nov. 2.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]



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