Developers pour tens of thousands of dollars into re-election campaigns for three Sarasota City Commission incumbents

Arroyo leading the way, with more than $92,000 collected through May

Editor’s note: This article was updated in midafternoon on June 26 to include a comment that District 1 candidate Melissa Forman provided to the News Leader the same day.

City Commissioner Erik Arroyo. File image

Of the seven candidates who have qualified to run this year for the three district seats on the Sarasota City Commission, incumbent Erik Arroyo has raised the highest total campaign contributions thus far, The Sarasota News Leader found through a review of the records.

The campaign finance documents submitted to the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk show that through May, Arroyo had received $92,801 in contributions. He had spent $23,398.76 as of May 31.

The other candidate for the District 3 seat that Arroyo won in 2024 — Kathy Kelley Ohlrich — had collected $24,954 through May, her second quarter report says. She had spent $5,754.51 as of that filing.

A 2023 legislative bill that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed amended the campaign finance filing requirements for candidates. As a result, reports no longer have been due every month.

In the District 2 race, Mayor Liz Alpert had taken in a total of $36,550 through May, her filing says. She had spent $12,606.73 through the same month.

Alpert’s challenger for the District 2 seat, Ron Kashden of Laurel Park, had taken in $53,421.48 through May, his report shows. Kashden had spent $19,637.67, that report notes.

In the District 1 race, incumbent Kyle Battie reported raising $19,400 through May, while he had spent $5,579.10.

Battie’s’ only challenger in the District 1 race prior to the opening of the official qualifying period last week — Melissa Morrill Furman — appears to have raised just $240.55.

A third District 1 candidate, Sequoia Felton, who filed last week, also turned in a campaign finance report. She had received $2,900 from 13 people, and she had spent $248.06.

District 1 candidate reports

In her second quarter form for this year, Furman does not list the sources of the latest funds documented, indicating only that she had receipts for two contributions adding up to $140.55.

Her first quarter filing for this year listed a solitary contribution of $100 from a Sarasota retiree; the form said it came in cash.

Furman listed no expenses in either report.

This is a section of District 1 candidate Melissa Furman’s second quarter report. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

In a comment on this article, submitted online on June 26, Furman wrote, “Most of my campaign will be self funded because I refuse to be beholden to anyone accept [sic] my constituents. Color me naive… it will be interesting to see how the chips fall in the District 1 race.”

Both former Mayor Willie Shaw and long-time Newtown leader Jetson Grimes were among those who contributed to Felton’s campaign, her initial report shows; they also have announced their support of her efforts to win the District 1 seat.

Sequoia Felton. Image from her campaign website

Shaw gave Felton $100, the report notes, while Grimes gave her $200. The largest single amount she received was the maximum allowed by law, $1,000. It came from David Campbell of Sarasota, who was listed as a business executive in Sarasota.

The second-highest contribution to Felton was $500, which came from Sarasota attorney Dan Lobeck, who long has supported growth management in the city.

The third-highest figure in the report was $350, which was an in-kind contribution from Virginia Hoffman-Meketon for producing a candidate photo for Felton.

Donna Moffitt, chair of the Steering Committee of the non-partisan CityPAC organization, contributed $250 to Felton’s campaign, the report notes.

The largest expense Felton listed in her report was $107, paid to Anedot of New Orleans for processing of campaign finance contributions. She also paid $53.18 to Namebadges International of Hollywood, FL, for name tags.

As for Battie: His first quarter report for this year noted a total of $1,600, with expenditures of $60.60.

In that report, he listed $1,000 from Josh Weiner of Seattle, the principal of The Longboat Group, which is the developer of the CitySide Apartments and Parkside complexes in the Rosemary District; $500 from Ian Black, whose eponymous real estate firm has worked with city staff in the search for sites for attainable housing projects; and $100 from Suncoast Consulting Partners LLC in Sarasota.
The expenses in that first report were campaign contribution processing fees paid to the New Orleans firm Anedot, the report shows.

In his second quarter report, Battie listed 29 contributions ranging from $100 up to the $1,000 maximum, for a total of $17,800. He also noted a $100 in-kind contribution. His expenses added up to $5,579.10.

One of the $1,000 contributions came from David Koffman, president of HSK Industries, a private equity firm in Sarasota that includes Ride Entertainment among its companies, as shown on its website. Ride Entertainment proposed a controversial plan to transform the city’s Ken Thompson Park, on City Island, into an amusement area. It ultimately backed away from the plans after reporters learned that Commissioner Arroyo had ties to the firm.

Commissioner Kyle Battie. News Leader image

Benderson Development gave Battie a $3,000 “bundle.” Benderson has been working on a couple of major city projects, including the redevelopment of the Sarasota County Administration Center property on Ringling Boulevard, which county staff will vacate after completion of a new facility on Fruitville Road. The company also is at work on a transformation of the former Southgate Mall on Siesta Drive.

A third bundle came from Sarasota attorney William Merrill III, who handles land-use development issues, and his wife, Karen. They gave Battie $1,000 apiece.

The other $1,000 contributions came from general contractor and Sarasota Planning Board member Terrill Salem; architect Gary Hoyt, whose firm has been involved in numerous city projects, including the proposed condominium tower at 1260 N. Palm Ave., which has sparked outcry since it first was proposed in 2023; the Retired City Firefighters Association, with a Bee Ridge Road address; Cask & Ale Sarasota LLC; attorney Patrick McArdle; retiree William Lewis McComb of Sarasota; Jennifer Rominiecki, CEO of Marie Selby Gardens; Shay Atluru, president of the engineering, environmental and construction consulting firm Diversified Technology Consultants; and developer Jonathan Mitchell.

In regard to expenses in that report, the largest totals went to Seagrape Strategies LLC of Sarasota ($2,000) for “Campaign Management,” while the campaign paid $1,500 to Suncoast Consulting Partners LLC.

The District 2 candidate contributions

In her initial campaign finance report, Mayor Liz Alpert listed a total of $6,450 in checks and a $3,600 loan in the first quarter of this year, for a total of $10,500.

The loan came from Alpert herself.

That report also noted that she spent $4,360.14 during the same period — January through March.

Alpert listed 19 contributors in that report, with amounts ranging from $50 to the $1,000 maximum.

Mayor Liz Alpert. File image

Those who gave her $1,000 were retiree William Lewis McComb of Sarasota, with another $1,000 from his wife, Marianne Depke McComb; and Cathy L. Layton, who is a past chair of the board of directors of The Bay Park Conservancy, which manages and raises funds for The Bay Park in downtown Sarasota, working with the city as a partner in the creation of the facilities.

Alpert also reported $500 from retired attorney Michael Shelton; Realtor Ian Black; and Dick Rivera, chair of Rubicon Enterprises in Sarasota, “a restaurant development and management company that is involved with four brands — TGI Friday’s, Marlow’s Tavern, RED Clasico Sarasota and Brick’s Smoked Meats,” as Rivera’s LinkedIn account points out. Brick’s Smoked Meats also is located in Sarasota.

Alpert’s largest single expense in that first quarter report was put at $3,667, which went to Resonance Campaigns of Washington, D.C., for “direct mail and digital messaging.”

She also paid a total of $693.14 to a Costa Mesa, Calif., company called Numero for processing fees for campaign contributions.

In her second quarter report, Alpert added $26,300 in cash and checks and $2,782.03 in in-kind contributions. That report listed 80 contributions, ranging from $50 to $1,000.

Those who gave her $1,000 apiece were David E. Sessions, CEO of Willis Smith Construction of Sarasota; Frank John LaCivita, president of Willis Smith; attorney William Merrill III of Icard Merrill and his wife, Karen; Michael Markowitz, president of his eponymous firm in Sarasota; Jennifer Rominiecki, CEO of Selby Gardens; the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee, in Orlando; the Realtors Polity Activity Committee Florida, a PAC based in Tallahassee; the Realtors Political Action Committee, also based in Orlando; Cullinan Companies LLC of East Peoria, Illinois, which is a real estate management firm with an office in Tampa; the Retired City Firefighters Association of Sarasota; Christopher Weaver, a professor in Southfield, Mass.; investor Laurence Saslaw of Aston Capital LLC in Sarasota; and architect Chris Gallagher, who has been a member of development teams that have appeared before the City Commission.

Among those who contributed $500 apiece to Alpert’s campaign were land-use attorney Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm in Sarasota; city Planning Board member Dan Clermont; Bill Waddill, past chief operating officer of the Bay Park Conservancy who recently returned to a position with the Kimley-Horn consulting firm; Kirk Voelker, one of the owners of the State Street Eating House; Shore Food Group LLC and Shore LBK LLC, which have restaurants on St. Armands Circle and Longboat Key; Hans Anger, general manager of TAGG Logistics; and Scott Eller, CEO of Community Assisted and Supported Living (CASL) in Sarasota, which builds affordable homes.

One of the persons who provided in-kind support to the campaign was Jim Travers, chair of the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation, which wants to build a new performing arts venue in The Bay Park. He paid $500 to help sponsor an event for Alpert on April 30, the campaign finance form says.

As for expenses: In her second quarter report, Alpert continued to list numerous payments to the Numero firm. She also repaid herself the $3,600 loan. Her largest overall expense was $2,990 to Suncoast Consulting Partners LLC in Sarasota.

Ron Kashden. Contributed photo

In regard to challenger Kashden’s campaign finance reports, his initial filing — for the fourth quarter of 2023 — showed a total of $4,141.24 in cash and checks, plus a $5,000 loan he made to the campaign. He spent $1,495.70 that quarter.

Kashden listed a total of 25 contributions, which ranged from $1 — from his wife, Kelly Franklin — to $500. The persons who gave him the latter amount were Donna Moffitt, chair of the CityPAC organization, with which Kashden’s wife works; retiree Robin Radin of Longboat Key; Jeff Kinkead, CEO of Sarasota Real Estate Partners LLC; Alan Rifkin, a Sarasota attorney, who is a member of the CityPAC Advisory Board; and retiree Lisa Schurr, who has advocated against conservative actions of the Sarasota County School Board.

Kashden’s largest single expense in that first report was $664.49, which went to Performance Copying & Printing of Sarasota for palm/rack cards. He also listed a $450.04 reimbursement to his wife for work on his campaign website, including the domain registration.

In the first quarter of this year, Kashden raised $14,370 from 47 people, including two who provided in-kind support, Denise Nagelschmidt and Cathy Goglia, both of Sarasota.

Kashden received $500 from retirees Henry Bryan, Anna Bryan Anna; Ron Watts; and Billy Schey, all of Sarasota; director/actor Carolyn Michel.; and auto dealer Leonard Napoli Jr. of Milford, Conn. Former City Commissioner Terry Turner and Turner’s wife, Nancy, also contributed a total of $500.

Retiree Stimson Schantz contributed $1,000, as did John Dyson, owner of Sailhamer Real Estate,; retiree Susan M. Kellaway of Randolph, Mass.; real estate professional Leonard C. Owens of Sarasota; retiree Glenn McPeak of Sarasota; and Barry Preston, managing director of Preston Giuliano Capital Partners in Sarasota.

In that report, Kashden’s largest expenses were a total of $5,722.24 to Street Smartz Consulting in Jacksonville; $2,514.50 to SpeedPro in Sarasota for yard signs; and $2,148 to The Observer Group in Sarasota for campaign advertising.

Kashden’s second quarter report noted a total of 86 contributions — $29,910.24 in cash or checks and $146.98 in in-kind contributions. He spent $19,637.67 during that period.

Those who gave Kashden $1,000 during that quarter were Steven Picket, CEO of a technology company who is on the CityPAC Advisory Committee; George Duke of Bradford, Penn., board chair and owner of Zippo Manufacturing Co.; retirees Hobart Swan, David Campbell and wife Martha Campbell, Robert Essner and wife Anne Essner, Paul Kaufman, Cheryl Barr, Judy Fiala, and John Long and Sandra Long of Sarasota. Georgia Court, owner of BookStore 1 in Sarasota also contributed $1,000.

Among his expenditures in that quarter, Kashden paid another $2,718 for advertising to The Observer Group; $1,775 to Gannett Florida for advertising in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; and $377.90 to Performance Copying & Printing of Sarasota.

The District 3 reports

A News Leader review of the Commissioner Arroyo’s first quarter campaign finance report found 84 contributions, though one of those was a $1 check from Arroyo to the campaign and a second was his in-kind payment of $144 for the work on his campaign website and email address.

Overall, the contributions in that first document of his 2024 campaign added up to $62,101, with $699.15 of the total as in-kind support. Arroyo spent $5,158.44 that quarter.

Nineteen of the first 21 contributions listed were for the maximum, $1,000.

Mark Vengroff. Image from the One Stop Housing website

One “bundle” comprising $10,000 came from affordable housing developer Mark Vengroff through 10 different companies of which he is the principal, according to records maintained by the Florida Division of Corporations: IIYF LLC, El Patio Apartments LLC of Sarasota, Oakridge LLC, One Stop Housing Development & Construction LLC, One Stop Housing, Palms 48 LLC, Robin’s Apartments LLC, S.S. Sasquatch LLC, Sarasota Place LLC, and Forest Cove LLC.

A $2,000 bundle came from Dave Balot, who has been trying to construct one of the Siesta Key high-rise hotels with more than 100 rooms. His contributing businesses were GFY Operations Inc. and ABC Family LLC.

The other $1,000 contributions came from the following: Sarasota attorney Erik G. Abrahamson of Siesta Key; Scott Eller, the CEO of CASL; Gigi Rogers, CEO of Rogers Market; Wolfgang Krutzler, vice president of Rogers Market; developers Mario Dianovsky and Wotold Kania, who have proposed the Orange One condominiums and townhomes in the Gillespie Park neighborhood; personal injury attorney Patrick McArdle; Richard Karp, president of Advanced Masonry Systems in Sarasota; architect Mark Sultana; attorney Georgie Higgins; Neil McCurry, president and CEO of Sabal Palm Bank; Daniel Dykgraaf, founder of Space Source, which handles commercial and residential real estate; Jones Potato Farm of Parrish; Robert Bunting of Boulder, Colo., CEO and chair of the Climate Adaptation Center; Sarasota architect Kevin Daves; developer Jonathan Mitchell; entrepreneur and developer Jesse Biter; JMB Leasing LLC; Jim Travers, chair of the board of the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation; Anderson, S.C., contractor Alan Zirkelbach; Dionel Aviles, owner of Asturian Solutions LLC of St. Petersburg; attorney Anthony Manganiello; land-use attorney Matt Brockway of the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota; the Sarasota Kennel Club, which owned the greyhound track in Sarasota; Margulies Hoelzli Architecture PLLC of New York City; Jodie Zerega, CEO of Zerega Consulting; ProspectsPLUS!, a Lakewood Ranch marketing firm; James Mitchell, a Sarasota entrepreneur; Chris Brown, owner of multiple businesses in Siesta Key Village; Ridge CP Corp. of Chicago, a construction, fire protection and plumbing firm; Voigt Brothers Construction of Sarasota; PGT of Nokomis, which manufactures storm-resistant windows; hotel developer Angus Rogers of Sarasota; retiree Ali Bahaj of Sarasota, who held a number of senior management positions at Caterpillar Japan Ltd., including serving as CEO; Cameron Johnson, sales consultant at Germain Lexus of Sarasota; Country Club Shores LLC, whose registered manager is Jamatt Properties LLC in Sarasota; Mikel Sharpe, city president of Ameris Bank in Sarasota; Hoyt Architects; Main Street Sarasota General Partner Ltd., whose registered agent is Timothy Shaw of Sarasota; KAD Engineering and Consulting of Lakewood Ranch; Roselawn Investments LLC, whose registered manager is Kevin L. Robbins; and Jebco ORE LLC, whose registered agent is Sadek A. Omar of Sarasota, co-founder of OMNIUM Real Estate.

Among Arroyo’s top expenditures in the first quarter were $4,000 paid to Seagrape Strategies LLC, a consulting firm; and $330.40 to WebElect of Tampa for “data.”

His second quarter report showed that Arroyo took in another $30,700, plus $1,019.30 in in-kind support. He spent $23,398.76 during that period.

Of the 52 contributions listed in that report, 23 were at the maximum of $1,000. Among those were checks from Robert Rominiecki, husband of the CEO of Selby Gardens; Joe Dietz of Sarasota, chair of ISB bank; Dr. David Shoemaker; the Association of Retired City Firefighters; John Matter, president of the Florida Leather Gallery; Jim Morton, owner of ProspectsPLUS!, a marketing firm; the Realtors Political Action Committee of Orlando; the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee of Orlando; and the Realtors Political Activity Committee Florida, of Orlando.

In regard to expenditures in that report, Arroyo paid another $4,000 to Seagrape Strategies LLC, plus $1,500 to Solmart Media LLC of Sarasota for “media.” However, his highest expense was $8,183.44, paid to Hart Consulting of Tempe, Arizona.

Kathy Kelley Ohlrich. Contributed photo

Ohlrich, Arroyo’s challenger in the District 3 race, kicked off her campaign in the fourth quarter of 2023 by contributing $1,000 to it, her filings show. She then paid $186 to the U.S. Postal Service to rent a post office box in Sarasota and $210 to SRQ Headshots in Sarasota for campaign photos, that report notes.

In her first quarter report for this year Ohlrich listed a total of $10,900 in 62 monetary contributions, with the amounts ranging from $25 to $750. The latter amount came from retiree Louis Kosiba of Lakewood Ranch. She also received $53 in an in-kind contribution from Joyce Cloutier of Sarasota for stamps.

Those who give her $500 were retired attorney Brenda Patten of Sarasota; retirees Renee Gluvna, Cynthia McCague, Charlene Creel, and Sue Renfrew; and former city Commissioner Terry Turner.

Ohlrich’s expenses for that period added up to $5,146.48. The highest amounts among those were $3,000, paid to Street Smartz Consulting of Jacksonville for print materials; and $1,230.50 to SpeedPro of Sarasota for yard signs.

Ohlrich’s second quarter report shows that she received another $13,001, and she paid $5,754.51 in expenses.

She listed 54 contributions. Only three of those were at the $1,000 mark. They came from Barry Preston of Sarasota, the managing director of Preston Giuliano Capital Partners; retiree David Campbell of Sarasota; and Campbell’s wife, Martha.

Ohlrich also listed $500 contributions from the following: retirees Andrew Hall, Shirl Gauthier, Vicki Rollo, Erika Ivanyi, Helen Abramowicz, Dennis Rees, Georgia Court, former City Commissioner Eileen Normile, and Arthur Hall of Sarasota, as well as Rebecca Preston of Providence, R.I.

Among expenditures, the highest for the period was $420, which went to Street Smartz Consulting. Ohlrich also paid $83.31 to the Florida Data Director Council for email services.

Leave a Comment