Campaign money flows into local races


The campaign cash is flowing into local elections, as the battle for victory in the Nov. 3 elections begins to heat up.

The undisputed champion, and likely a record holder for a constitutional officer election, is Republican incumbent A.J. ‘Tony’ Smith, 60, of Apalachicola, who is facing Democratic challenger Carl Whaley, 51, of Carrabelle, in the November general election for the sheriff’s post.

Smith has amassed nearly $127,000, dwarfing Whaley’s slightly less than $8,000 total.

Almost $48,000 of Smith’s contributions were amassed before April 1, 2019, and the rest has flowed in since then, coming from a huge array of business and individual donors as near as Eastpoint and St. George Island, and as far as Tallahassee and even Atlanta, Georgia.

He said he plans to “spend whatever it takes” on behalf of his re-election campaign, and then use unspent monies to go towards his vision of a drug rehab facility in Franklin County.

Whaley’s funds have come from mainly local contributors, led by a $1,000 business donation from Eastpoint’s Coastline Clearing and Land Development, owned and operated by Timmy and Natalie Butler; and a $500 business donation from True Grit Trucking out of Carrabelle, owned by Lorne Whaley.

Candidate profile Smith, Whaley to square off for sheriff

Because Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley and Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper are unopposed, they haven’t had to raise funds.

But the races for superintendent of schools, tax collector and clerk of courts have all attracted money.

The largest amount so far is about $30,000 in the battle to succeed the retiring Clerk of Courts Marcia Johnson.

Erin Hale Griffith, 39, of St. George Island, and Suzanne Michele Maxwell, 47, of Apalachicola, both running without party affiliation, will face off in the November general election. Each has raised about $15,000, mainly out of their own money or those of friends, so they’re neck and neck.

In Griffith’s case, her two largest donations, each $1,000, have come as an individual contribution from Randolph McLaughliin, of St. George Island, and from the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee, out of Orlando.

Maxwell, too, has raised realtor dollars, with a $1,000 business contribution from Beach Time Realty, Inc. and a $1,000 individual contribution from Virginia Thomas. Both are out of Panama City Beach. She also has received $1,000 in a contribution from CV Maintenance of Apalachicola, which is managed by Christopher Varnes, of Apalachicola.

Candidate profiles: Independent women vie for clerk of courts

 In the tax collector’s race, which pits Republican incumbent Rick Watson, 73, of St. George Island, against Danny W. Gay, 49, of Apalachicola, who is running without party affiliation, Watson has raised a little more than $20,500, and Gay about $13,500.

Both Watson and Gay have helped fund their campaigns, and have raised money from supporters both here in the county and the region.

Watson, a former Tallahassee lobbyist, has received his two largest donations, of $1,000, in business contributions from the Realtors PAC out of Orlando, and from prominent Tallahassee lobbyist Ronald Book.

Gay has gathered in three $1,000 contributions, individual ones from McLaughlin, and from Apalachicola resident Robin Vroegop; and a business one from R & H Retail, owners of St. George Island Trading Company.

Candidate profiles: GOP hopefuls vie for tax collector

In the superintendent race, incumbent Democrat Traci Moses Yoder, 42, of Apalachicola, will face Republican challenger Steve Lanier, 62, Eastpont, in the November general election.

Each has so far raised about $7,000, with each contributing to their own campaigns, as well as gathering donations from family and friends.

Yoder’s largest contribution, an individual donation of $1,000 comes from Ronald Howse, of Cocoa, who chairs the Florida Transportation Commission.

Lanier’s largest contributions, to date, have been $500 from Barber’s Seafood, $500 from Ken and Kim Fish, and $500 from Malcom and Mary Johnson, of DeBary.

Candidate profiles: Lanier challenging Yoder for superintendent

In District #3, incumbent Democratic commissioner Noah Lockley, 69, Apalachicola, will face a challenge in the Nov. 3 general election from Brett Gormley, 41, Apalachicola., who is running without party affiliation.

Gormley has so far raised over $10,000, well ahead of Lockley’s roughly $2,000.

Gormley’s largest contributors have been three $1,000 donations, from HLS Property Management, run by George Kirvin Floyd; an individual donation from James Stelzenmuller, of Alligator Point; and a business contribution from Apalachee Ventures, an investment firm run by Patrick J. Balthrop, Sr.

Lockley’s largest contribution, of $1,000, has been a business donation, from Robert Flowers, who heads up C.W. Roberts.

Candidate profiles: Gormley takes on Lockley in District #3

In District 5, incumbent William Massey, who is running without party affiliation, will square off in November against Republican challenger Madeline Nevarez, 54, of Carrabelle, and Jessica Varnes Ward, 41, of Eastpoint, who is running without party affiliation.

Ward has raised the most funds, about $4,500, while Nevarez has a little more than $2,000 and Massey just under $1,000.

All three candidates have contributed funds to their campaigns.

Ward’s largest contribution has come from HLS Property Management, while Nevarez has received only one outside contribution thus far, $100 from Alligator Point’s Allan Feifer. Massey’s largest contribution is $500 from Tallahassee Welding And Machine.

Candidate profiles: Three-way race set for District #5 commissioner

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Campaign money flows into local races


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