Mike Mannino makes low-budget Clearwater City Council contest a more expensive prospect
Photo courtesy: Mike Mannino

Mike Mannino
GOP donors are buying into his campaign, as 2 opponents push ahead with grassroots campaigns.

Mike Mannino, a candidate for Clearwater City Council, Seat 3, is flipping the script on hyperlocal politicking.

These races are typically sleepy endeavors that attract limited cash. But Mannino has raked in more than $22,000 for his campaign.

It doesn’t sound like much during an election cycle where finance reports often enter six figures quickly, but for a Clearwater race, it’s a lot.

By comparison, neither of Mannino’s two opponents have even gotten close to $10,000, let alone $20,000.

Mannino faces journalist Jared Leone and city neighborhoods coordinator Javante Scott. Leone has raised just over $5,000 while Scott has brought in a little over $6,500. Worse for Leone, he maintains less than $2,000, while Scott has about $3,500.

Mannino, meanwhile, has about $18,000 left in his coffers.

If fundraising is any indication, the disparity comes down to partisanship, even though the race is nonpartisan.

Donors during the most recent fourth quarter fundraising period include the political committee for Sen. Nick DiCeglie, a prominent Pinellas County Republican, with a maximum $1,000 contribution. The Florida Leadership Committee, a committee chaired by former Sen. Jack Latvala that supports Republican candidates, kicked in $500. Mannino also took in $500 from Friends of Ed Hooper, the committee supporting Sen. Ed Hooper, also a Republican.

The donor list includes other prominent conservatives, too, such as Pinellas County Commissioners Chris Latvala and Brian Scott, Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr. and others.

The funding will be challenging enough for Leone and Scott, but Mannino’s donor list and the powerful political players that populate it also lend credibility to a City Council bid that might otherwise fly under the radar.

Still, money isn’t everything when it comes to local races.

Leone hasn’t hit five figures, but he’s taken in a lot of smaller contributions, such as $100 from a local physicist, Ben Petrak, and $50 from a local lawyer, Mike Drayer. Few, if any, of the names jump out the way names like DiCeglie and Latvala do in Pinellas, but it shows Leone is hitting the ground and making the ask.

The same is true for Scott, whose donor list includes everyday residents ranging from retirees to FedEx drivers and health care workers to deli managers.

The three candidates are running to succeed Kathleen Beckman, who is running for Mayor and not seeking re-election.

This is Mannino’s second attempt at a City Council seat, having previously run for Seat 2, now held by anti-Scientology activist Mark Bunker.

In 2020, Mannino finished second in his race in a crowded field of five candidates, a huge ballot for a Clearwater City Council contest that typically draws little attention.

In 2020, Mannino ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and low taxes. If elected, he plans to focus on job creation and growth, smart growth that manages development within the confines of the city’s resources and fostering a business-friendly environment.

Leone and Scott are first-time candidates.

Leone has deep roots in Clearwater, including previous work as an editor for Patch.com’s Clearwater edition. He’s remained active in the community, and is currently a member of the Clearwater Environmental Advisory Board. Earlier this week he earned an endorsement from the Sierra Club.

Scott is running on a “NEXT” platform that focuses on issues that impact a lot of Clearwater residents, such as housing, economic development, diversity, infrastructure, youth opportunity, protecting the environment and improving city employment.

Whether their message-based campaigns can take on a monied campaign with experienced political backing won’t become clear until Election Day, which is March 19.

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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