Challenger Hutchinson reports numerous contributions from retirees
The most recent campaign finance reports filed in the race for the Sarasota County Commission District 3 seat show Republican Commissioner Nancy Detert of Venice with more than twice as much money as her opponent, Democrat Cory Hutchinson of North Port.
Through Oct. 2, Detert had $22,985, compared to $9,961.20 for Hutchinson, according to the documents filed through Oct. 2 with the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office. (Those were the latest reports available prior to the deadline for this issue of The Sarasota News Leader.)
Detert had spent less than half that amount — $9,756.74. Through the same period, Hutchinson reported expenditures of $7,418.27.
Among Detert’s contributions in the latest report, two limited liability companies for which Sarasota attorney William Merrill III of the Icard Merrill firm is the manager gave her $200 each. That amount is the maximum the Sarasota County Charter allows from an individual or entity.
Additionally, Merrill himself and Karen Merrill, with the same address, contributed $200 apiece.
Additionally, developer John Cannon, Phillipa Cannon — with the same address as John Cannon — Cannon Offices LLC, John Cannon Construction, and John Cannon Homes also gave Detert $200 each.
Among other contributors listed in the last report were Sunfield Homes, Suntech Communities and Suntech Homes, which asked the County Commission to deny a proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment submitted to the county by members of the Miakka Community Club. The commissioners voted unanimously on Sept. 23 to deny the petition, which called for a reduction in residential density in the development of 6,000 acres located near the intersection of Fruitville and Verna roads.
Detert made the motion, even though she also made the motion a year earlier that directed county staff to process the proposed amendment for commission consideration.
John Cannon and attorney Merrill appeared at the Sept. 23 public hearing to urge the board members not to proceed with the amendment. A representative of Suntech and Sunfield also was present, making the same argument.
The Sept. 19 to Oct. 2 campaign finance report filed for Detert notes the Cannon-related contributions, plus those linked to Merrill, came in on Sept. 24. The Sunfield/Suntech contributions were listed as having been received on Oct. 2.
Two other entities with the same address as Sunfield and Suntech — Suntech Investments Inc. and Trinity Tuscan Center LLC — also gave $200 each to Detert, the report shows. Altogether, those contributions added up to $1,000, matching the $1,000 in the bundle from Cannon and his associated companies.
Another bundle of $200 contributions is linked to Michael Wijas of the Lake Forest, Ill., firm, Quantum Dynamix LLC. Detert’s latest report shows receipt of $200 from that company, for which a Mundelein, Ill., address was listed; plus $200 each from Wijas himself and Monica Wijas, both with the same Lakewood Ranch address; and another $200 from Intellihive LLC, which also shares that Lakewood Ranch address.
Yet another bundle of $200 donations came from Benderson Development. The contributors listed were the company itself, plus 9395 CH LLC and Sarasota Ellis Associates LLC, both with the same Cooper Creek Boulevard address in University Park.
In Detert’s report for the period of Sept. 5-18, her contributors included John Saputo of Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, who gave her $150; land-use attorney Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm in Sarasota, $200; Jack Brill, acting chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, $50; Commissioner Alan Maio and his wife, $200 each; and Maio’s son, Adam, $200.
However, the News Leader found $200 contributions from Alan Maio and his wife in the May report Detert filed. The second contributions would have been a violation of the County Charter. Yet, the News Leader has seen such incidents in the past, which resulted in candidates refunding the excessive money.
Among other contributors in that Sept. 5-18 report were Robert “Bo” Medred, who often appears before the commission as an agent of developers, and his firm, Genesis Planning & Development of Bradenton; both gave Detert $200.
Further, Detert received a bundle of $200 contributions from the Boone, Boone & Boone law firm in Venice and persons linked to that firm: E.G. Dan Boone, Stephen Boone and Jeffrey Boone.
Among expenses in the two most recent reports, the largest Detert listed was $1,143 paid to the Hotel Venezia in Venice for a fundraising event and $350 to the Robinson Gruters & Roberts CPA firm in Venice. The Robinson in that firm is Eric Robinson, past chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, while the Gruters is Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, who is chair of the state Republican Party.
Altogether, Detert listed 27 contributors in her campaign finance report for the period of Sept. 19 through Oct. 2; she noted 45 for the report covering contributions from Sept. 5 through Sept. 18.
Hutchinson’s latest reports
In his report for the period of Sept. 19 through Oct. 2, Hutchinson listed 16 contributions, ranging from $5 to the $200 Charter limit. Altogether, 13 of those were from people identified on the list as retirees.
Among the contributions was $100 from the Sierra Club Florida Political Action Committee.
Another three retirees were among the contributors in the report Hutchinson filed for the period of Sept. 5-18.
The biggest expenses Hutchinson listed in those two reports were $449.39 to Facebook for ads on the social media network; $170.54 to PostNet of North Port for campaign literature; $162.50 to Political Data Inc. of Norwalk, Calif., for a “Bluevote Subscription”; and $157.50 to Fiverr of New York City for a “Voiceover.” Fiverr’s website banners say, “Find the perfect freelance services for your business.”
The data on the Supervisor of Elections website shows the biggest period for Hutchinson in terms of raising funds was June 1-12, when he took in $2,340. Of the 16 people or entities who gave him money during that period, 10 were identified as retirees. Two others were listed as students.
Early September best period for Detert’s campaign
Detert’s top period for contributions was Sept. 5-18, when her total was $6,700, the campaign finance records show.
Her second highest mark came in the period from June 6-12, when she reported $5,200. Each of the 26 contributions in the latter was $200.
Among the contributors listed during that period were former County Commissioner Christine Robinson, who is executive director of the Argus Foundation in Sarasota; Robinson’s husband, Eric of the Robinson Gruters & Roberts CPA firm; and Commissioner Michael Moran and his wife, Lori.
Other contributors were former state Sen. Mike Bennett, who is the Manatee County supervisor of elections; and Florida Country, a political action committee (PAC) whose registered agent is Eric Robinson.
Two other $200 contributions came from the Ramba Consulting Group LLC and Ramba Law Group, both of Tallahassee. The website for those entities says that David E. Ramba, the founder of Ramba Consulting, “was head of the Legislative Team for Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A., for 10 years.” In that capacity, the website adds, Ramba represented more than 30 clients “before the Legislature, Governor, Cabinet and state agencies in the areas of local government, utilities, taxation, franchise issues, environmental regulation, administrative rulemaking and other government matters.”
Detert served in both the Florida House and Senate before her 2016 election to the County Commission.