Skop leads City Commission candidates in campaign fundraising

Published: Monday, January 2, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 2, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.

Gainesville City Commission candidate Nathan Skop has raised $14,255 in cash since joining the race on Oct. 31, 2011, 39 percent more than his closest opponent, Lauren Poe, has raised since signing up in mid-September.

On Friday, candidates for the two open commission seats — At-large 1 and District 1 — posted their financial reports for the period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 23, giving a picture into how much support they have and how much they have left to spend as the race gears up after the holidays ahead of the Jan. 31 elections.

Eight candidates are vying for the At-large 1 seat, including Skop, a former member of the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in Florida, and Poe, who served one term as the city commissioner in District 2 before losing his re-election bid in the spring.

In all, Poe has raised $8,685, including $5,190 in the most recent reporting period.

After Skop's haul, real estate agent Darlene Pifalo brought in the most money during the same period, $6,665. That brought her total to $7,715.

After campaign spending, Skop was left with a huge advantage, with more than $13,500 in the bank as of Dec. 23. The candidate with the second most was James Ingle, an electrician, with $5,046.68 remaining from the $6,879 he has raised.

Donna Lutz, a real estate agent, raised $6,300, followed by pawnbroker Richard Selwach with $1,200, Mark Venzke with $293.05 and Dejeon Cain, a University of Florida Police Department police service technician, with $39. All of the money raised by the Selwach and Cain campaigns came from the candidates.

In interviews Sunday, Poe, Pifalo and Ingle said they weren't dismayed by Skop's cash advantage.

“We're on our budget,” said Poe, an associate professor of economics and government in Santa Fe College's dual-enrollment program. “We're meeting our goals so far. I am not going to lie, when I saw those numbers by Nathan Skop I kind of jumped a little bit. That was an extraordinary amount of money in a short amount of time.”

Of Poe's 89 cash contributions, one came from himself, one from a business and 87 from individuals.

Of Skop's 79 cash contributions, 15 came from businesses and 64 from individuals.

Poe said many of Skop's contributors gave the maximum $250 amount, leaving him with a large advantage on the bottom line. Whether that bottom line means votes remains to be seen.

“I just have never had that kind of fundraising ability,” Poe said. “A lot of my supporters are people who give 25 bucks, 50 bucks. It's hard to keep up with that.”

Skop couldn't be reached for comment Sunday, but he sent out a news release about his campaign finances on Friday, touting the $14,255 in cash and $1,145 in in-kind donations his campaign received.

The statement said: “In thanking his supporters, Skop noted that raising campaign contributions totaling $15,400 in such a short period of time was a testament to his campaign earning community support from neighborhoods, GRU ratepayers, small business, law enforcement and former mayors and city commissioners.”

“Gainesville residents want change at City Hall,” Skop said in the release. “I stand ready to bring leadership, integrity and accountability back to local government for the citizens of Gainesville.”

Pifalo, who said she erroneously listed two additional $200 contributions in her report and would correct the mistake, said with the holidays and the economy, it has been a difficult time asking people for money.

Still, she is comfortable with the support she has received.

“I've been involved for the past 10 or 15 years, and people realize that,” she said.

Ingle said he didn't think the war chests were the only measuring stick for the campaigns — at least he hoped not.

“We ran kind of a low-budget campaign last time,” he said, referring to his bid for District 2 commissioner in 2011. “If this thing is going to be about how many glossy mailers you can send out, we're going to be doomed.”

Skop has used the city's 30-year biomass contract as a significant part of his platform, though the deal was voted on in 2009 and he voted in favor of the private, 100-megawatt plant as a member of the Public Service Commission in 2010.

Ingle said it was “not a great thing for the race” that the issue has dominated discourse so far because there are other issues to worry about.

“It's very divisive, and there is no middle ground,” he said.

However, he said he feels that the commission should learn from the issues residents have brought up, like complaints that the deal was not as transparent as it should have been.

Poe said biomass would have been a good thing to run on three or four years ago and said he shared Ingle's sentiment that there were other issues that needed to be discussed, like economic development — “not an issue that is years old and has already gotten a thorough public hearing.”

“If you don't like it, you lost the fight and move on to the next one,” he said. “But that's not happening here, and we have an election that seems to be based on one issue.”

In the three-way race for District 1, which mainly covers east Gainesville and part of the city northwest of the Main Street-North 39th Avenue intersection, Armando Grundy raised the most money as of Dec. 23, bringing in $6,828.

Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, a Gainesville Housing Authority commissioner, raised $6,260.

Since joining the race in the 11th hour on the last day of qualifying on Nov. 18, Ray Washington, an attorney and former Sun reporter, raised $5,847.31. Records show that 86.75 percent of that came from himself or his wife.

Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or

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