Deborah Figgs-Sanders falls behind challenger Torrie Jasuwan in St. Pete City Council fundraising
Image via Torrie Jasuwan

Torrie Jasuwan
If strong fundraising and dueling endorsements are any indication, this will be a local race to watch.

St. Petersburg City Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders has raised more than $40,000 for her re-election bid, a significant sum this early in the race for hyperlocal contests.

But her challenger, Torrie Jasuwan, upped the ante, raising more than $50,000. And she did it in less time.

Figgs-Sanders represents District 5, which includes parts of South St. Pete such as Greater Pinellas Point and the Maximo area.

Jasuwan took in 159 contributions, averaging about $315 each. Among contributors were former St. Petersburg City Council members Robert Blackmon and Darden Rice, who each donated $1,000; the real estate firm for which Jasuwan is a broker, Luxe Properties International, which donated $500; Jasuwan’s husband, Albert Jasuwan, who donated $1,000; and the candidate herself, who kicked in $500.

Rice was one of a bipartisan group of seven former St. Pete City Council members to endorse Jasuwan.

Other prominent donors include Jeanette Secor, Bill Edwards, Deveron Gibbons and Feldman Equities. Secor is a business partner of Jasuwan’s.

A Pinellas County native, Jasuwan is a small-business owner and real estate broker with Luxe. She’s also the founder of Babycycle Diaper Bank, a nonprofit that serves more than 250,000 families in need each year. She has been a vocal advocate at the state level for tax-free diapers, successfully working with Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Anna Eskamani to eliminate the tax in Florida.

She and her family have appeared several times, over two seasons, on the Bravo reality series “Below Deck.”

In addition to her fundraising haul, Jasuwan also brought in endorsements from a Mayor and former Mayor — Treasure Island Mayor Tyler Payne and former St. Pete Mayor Bob Ulrich.

“I am humbled by the strong support of so many friends from our city to help us get our message to the voters of St Petersburg.” Jasuwan said. “I am energized by the support from so many different people and diverse groups throughout our city. This early support of esteemed community leaders and money lead will help us spread our message of Unity, Progress and Fresh Ideas for St. Petersburg.”

Payne commented on the importance of regionalism in his endorsement.

“We need forward thinking to solve the problems of our coastal communities. Climate change, sea level rise, infrastructure upgrades and storm hardening are critical to the future of our region’s success,” Payne said. “Cities cannot operate in a silo, and I look forward to closely collaborating with Torrie and the next St. Pete Council to serve the citizens.”

Ulrich noted how much the city has changed, while also recognizing that there are many residents who remember fondly the St. Pete of yesteryear.

“Smart growth, tempered with historic preservation and neighborhood protections, are the keys to economic vitality. As Mayor, I ensured Major League Baseball had a home by completing the Tropicana Field project. I trust Torrie’s small business experience to make sure we get it right for the next generation,” Ulrich said.

District 5 is one of two City Council districts with a high concentration of Black residents. Figgs-Sanders is Black. Jasuwan is White. The district is home to 7,672 Black voters, according to the most recent data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections. There are nearly 12,000 white voters.

Figgs-Sanders’ predecessor, Steve Kornell, was White.

While Sanders trails Jasuwan in aggregate fundraising by about $10,000, she raised about $16,000 less than Jasuwan in the fourth quarter, covering financial activity from October through December.

The incumbent raised just under $34,000 from 154 contributions for an average donation of about $220.

She took in $250 from colleague Brandi Gabbard and, based on contributions, appears to have at least tacit support from Mayor Ken Welch. Welch’s political committee, Pelican PAC, cut a check to Figgs-Sanders’ campaign for $1,000, and his aide, Rita Wesley, donated $50. Lawyer Roxanne Fixsen, who worked as an advisor in Welch’s administration, donated $250.

Other notable contributors include Scott Wagman ($250); Lorna Taylor ($1,000); former Florida CFO Alex Sink ($100); special needs physical activity coach Mark Oliver ($300); former St. Pete Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin ($100); former Pinellas School Board member Linda Lerner ($100); former Reps. Ben Diamond ($250) and Jennifer Webb ($250); Woodson African American History Museum Executive Director Terri Lipsey-Scott ($100); former St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster ($500); former congressional candidate Eric Lynn ($250); and retired longtime city employee Theresa Jones ($50).

Figgs-Sanders also recently rolled out a list of endorsements, including Sen. Darryl Rouson, who lives in her district; Reps. Michele Rayner and Lindsay Cross; Foster, Webb, Diamond and former Reps. Ed Narain and Sean Shaw.

Neither candidate has spent much on the race so far. Jasuwan has dropped a little over $4,000, leaving her with just under $46,000 in the bank. Figgs-Sanders spent a little over $3,500, leaving about $37,000 on hand.

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Editor’s disclaimer: Michelle Todd Schorsch, wife of Florida Politics Publisher Peter Schorsch, contributed $250 to Jasuwan’s campaign.

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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