Author’s Note: While I sometimes wish it weren’t the case, I feel the need to preface posts like the one below with a couple quick reminders. For as long as there have been elections, there have been campaign contributions, and as it stands now, they are an accepted part of the American political system. There is nothing inherently corrupt about them; there is nothing inherently wrong with the idea that financially supporting a candidate who shares your interest is somehow wrong. In some cases, journalists and politicians put the cart before the horse when discussing campaign contributions, attributing votes to contributions, rather than contributions to votes. That said, the relationship between campaign contributions and the eventual positions that politicians take is important.
My previous post on Senate Bill 6 noted that Sen. Ronda Storms (R-Tampa) voted for it, along with the majority of Senate Republicans. Her primary opponent, Paul Phillips, was opposed. The bill, which would have adversely affected teachers unions and was accused of being a danger to public education as a whole, would have been a boon for private education and proponents of charter schools-interests that, as it turns out, have contributed a large portion of Storms’ re-election warchest.
Of the roughly $25,000 that Storms raised in the first quarter of 2010, around 20 percent was contributed by private education interests, like DeVry University and ATI, as well as K12 Management Inc., a company that runs charter schools in several states, and a personal contribution from Randy Proto, CEO of ATI. A full report on these numbers can be seen here. (It is difficult to contrast Phillips’ fundraising numbers to Storms’, given that he has only raised only $1,380 thus far.)
Placing these fundraising numbers in context lends a bit more credibility to the theory that these contributions were geared towards SB-6. In the last quarter of 2009, Storms raised around twice as much money-nearly $50,000. However, not a single dime of it came from education trade groups and the like-see this campaign finance report. The quarter before that was Storms’ biggest fundraising quarter ever-around $69.000, but only $1,500, or around two percent, was flagged as coming from education groups or companies.
Senate Bill 6, passed by the state legislature and vetoed less than a week ago by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, was the source of heated controversy even among Republicans. Republican leaders in the legislature fought for it, but it was vetoed by Crist and was attacked by several prominent Republicans, including state senator and gubernatorial hopeful Paul Dockery (see her op-ed) before it was even voted on. As it has elsewhere, SB-6 has become a bone of contention in district ten’s GOP primary.
Incumbent Sen. Ronda Storms, a member of the Senate K-12 education committee, voted for the bill, standing alongside the Republican leadership in both chambers. Storm’s official member’s page on the Florida Senate’s website does not list a press release discussing her vote (her campaign site is under construction).
Storms’ primary challenger, Paul Phillips, is much more lukewarm to the idea. From his campaign facebook page:
“Dockery gets it right, in my opinion. Loss of local control and other relevant issues make SB6 and its counterpart a less than favorable option.”
It remains to be seen how prominent a role education issues will play in the primary, but at the very least, this is a clear distinction between the two candidates, in a race that has been light on specific points of disagreement.
The release of first quarter fundraising numbers for Republican State Sen. Ronda Storms and her primary challenger Paul M. Phillips showcase the distinct difference between the funds available to incumbents and those available to their challengers. Phillips, a Tampa-area college instructor and attorney, raised $1,380 in the first quarter of 2010, with all contributions coming from individuals and the largest donation being a $300 contribution from Scott McIntyre, owner of St. Petersburg-area Solar Energy Management and a proponent of energy independence.
Phillips’ $1,380 will have a difficult time standing up to Storms’. She raised $25,157 in the first quarter, $16,000 of which was raised in $500 dollar increments, the maximum legal contribution. While Phillips’ money was contributed by individuals, Storms’ incumbency has given her the benefit of contributions from trade and interest groups, including the Tampa Bay Pilots Association, the Florida Pharmacy PAC, and the Florida Bankers Association. Storms has also raised a little over $4,000 in contributions from entities who’s addresses are listed outside the state of Florida, although there is some overlap between this $4,000 and the $16,000 in maximum contributions.
For a more viable chance at building name recognition and taking down Storms, Phillips will need to find a significant source of money. It is worth noting that of the four incumbent state Senators currently facing an opponent, Storms has raised the least amount of money by a significant amount, indicating that her campaign isn’t worried about Phillips yet. Second-quarter numbers will likely settle that question for sure.
The race isn’t exactly heating up for the seat in Florida’s 10th Senate district. Former Hillsborough County commissioner and current state Sen. Ronda Storms has taken an early (and wide) lead in fund raising against fellow Republican Paul M. Phillips.
Phillips, a former Marine, faces an uphill battle against the well known Storms, who rose to prominence (or notoriety, depending on your political persuasion) while serving on the Hillsborough County Commission. She gained a degree of infamy after championing several controversial causes, including opposing construction of a Florida A&M Law School in Tampa and campaigning to remove gay pride displays from Hillsborough County libraries. Despite these controversial stances, she was elected to the state Senate in 2006 and seems unlikely to be unseated now.
Monitor this blog in coming weeks for further updates (and, I hope, candidate interviews!) on this race.