As of reports filed Jan. 18, the City Commission candidates for the at-large seats have collected a total of $37,526. Challengers Richard Dorfman, Susan Chapman and Kelvin Lumpkin are leading the way in campaign contributions.
The candidates are vying for two at-large seats in the March 12 election.
Candidates can collect a maximum of $200 from an individual donor. As of the Jan. 18 report, candidates have collected:
Richard Dorfman: $22,219
Susan Chapman: $6,695
Kelvin Lumpkin: $4,675
Linda Holland: $2,562
Suzanne Atwell (incumbent): $1,275
Pete Theisen: $100
In addition to donations, some candidates have taken out loans to help fund their campaign.
Thus far, totals are: Dorfman: $7,569.35; Atwell: $2,504; Holland: $500; Theisen: $236.82.
Dorfman, who missed out by 17 votes on a runoff election in May 2011 for the City Commission District 1 seat, has collected more than the other candidates combined.
In response to candidate Susan Chapman’s statement that Dorfman has a financial advantage because he has the “developers’ money,” Dorfman said that of his 80 campaign donors so far, most are residents who “want to see the city move forward.”
“My money has come from all sources in the city,” said Dorfman, a retired sports agent. “It comes from a lot of people who have never been involved in city politics before and who are so fed up with what is going on that they have decided to support me.”
Dorfman estimates that several dozen of his campaign contributors are young professionals who want to see the city’s economy healthy and increased opportunities, Dorfman said.
“The folks who contributed to me are building businesses, raising families and trying to do a lot of things,” Dorfman said. “They are the future of the city, not the past of the city.”
Dorfman said he is not opposed to the city’s influential coalition of neighborhood associations, but he feels elected officials should not be making major decisions by listening to just one group of people.
“If you look at the planning board and city commissioners votes, there is a real anti-growth, anti-business sentiment,” Dorfman said. “I’m not against CCNA or the neighborhood associations, what I am for is balance. The idea is to listen to everyone.”
Dorfman’s strategy is to reach the city’s base of regular voters while also reaching out to residents who have not voted recently in city elections.
“A lot of those people are under 40,” Dorfman said.
Chapman has received contributions from four neighborhood association presidents or past presidents, other neighborhood leaders and the current president of CCNA.
Some of those same leaders convinced Chapman to run.
“Many of them were active in recruiting me,” Chapman said.
Chapman did not want to disclose specifics of her campaign strategy.
“We have a strategy mapped out, and we will do what we have to win,” said Chapman.
But, she did say she expects some negative campaigning — probably closer to the election — and her campaign team believes it is important to be able to respond.
“I am worried there will be negative campaigning. I do not know who will do it,” Chapman said. “We have to be prepared and answer everything.”
Chapman, a lawyer and outspoken neighborhood leader who has served on the Sarasota Planning Board, said the demands of the campaign are already overwhelming before the candidate forums, interviews and events begin. As of Monday, Jan. 28, she had campaign contributions from 94 donors, some of whom had not previously contributed to a local-election campaign.
“I won’t be the top money raiser,” Chapman said. “Dorfman will be because he has the development money. He has raised a lot of money.”
Kelvin Lumpkin has raised the third-highest amount in campaign contributions.
The pastor at Light of the World Church says that fundraising is a necessity, yet he feels that it, alone, will not win a City Commission election.
He plans to use his campaign funds to plan events so he can get his message out and also plans to send out mailers later in the campaign.
Lumpkin said because he is relatively unknown, “there is a lot to do” during the next few weeks.
Some of Lumpkin’s contributions have been from members of the business community, including several downtown Realtors and developer representatives.
“A resident came to my house and voiced some concern,” Lumpkin said. The resident already knew one candidate he was voting for, but was trying to decide who will get his second vote. He asked Lumpkin, “Are you pro-business? Are you in the business community’s pocket?’”
Lumpkin said his stance on the issue is more nuanced.
“I want businesses to thrive,” Lumpkin said. “But that doesn’t mean I have to be anti-neighborhood.”
Lumpkin’s advisers have told him he needs to be out collecting campaign contributions in person, but Lumpkin said it has been a challenge.