Strong-Mayor Funder Contributes $229,000

old city hall entranceWith city elections nearly four months away, the campaign to change Lakeland’s city government to a strong-mayor system has amassed $231,193, by far the largest war chest in any Lakeland election campaign ever. Read on to see how each of the 15 announced candidates for city office are financing their races  and who the biggest donors are.

The Nov. 7 city election ballot includes the strong-mayor vote as well as races for mayor and three City Commission seats.

The strong-mayor effort has benefitted from $229,000 from Gregory Fancelli and the Gregory Fancelli Trust, according to campaign finance reports, the latest of which were posted this week (candidate reports | mayor issue reports).

The balance — $2,193 — came via in-kind contributions from Committee for a Strong Lakeland, the organization spearheading the drive to change the city charter to create a strong-mayor format.

Voters are being asked whether they want to replace the current form of city government — where a city manager who reports to the commission runs the city departments — with a system where an “executive mayor” elected directly by voters is responsible for day-to-day operations.

Opposition to the strong-mayor initiative is organized under a group called No Boss Mayor, which has raised $33,721. More than half of it came via $5,000 contributions from two individuals and two businesses: Barney Barnett, Jack Harrell, Lakeland Cold Storage (registered agent: Wesley Beck) and Land One South (registered agent: Brian Philpot).

A chart below shows the totals for each city campaign as well as their number of contributions and average contribution amount. It is based on work by Michael Maguire, who is tabulating and publishing updated tables on his website TheCityZenShip. The site also includes lists of donors to each candidate and a downloadable Excel spreadsheet.

Qualifying for office closes in September, so more candidates may still announce they’re running.

Candidates with the highest numbers include:

  • Most money collected: C. Scott Franklin, an insurance executive, with $44,825. Next highest are Larry Durrence ($33,771) and Bill Mutz ($31,075).
  • Highest average contribution: Jorge Fonseca, a medical clinic administrator, with a $482 average. Next highest are Mutz ($478) and Stephanie Madden ($337).
  • Highest number of contributions: Larry Durrence, a retired college president, with 175. Next highest are Franklin (140) and Michael Dunn (91).

The totals in the chart include cash, loans, and “in-kind” contributions from individuals, family trusts and businesses through the end of June.

The November election will bring the turnover of at least three seats on the seven-person city commission and the potential of four seats changing hands. The only incumbent running for re-election is Jim Malless, who faces four challengers for At-Large Seat No. 1.

Funding patterns vary, including some who haven’t begun collecting funds yet, some who have attracted mostly large contributions, such as Fonseca and Mutz, and some who have attracted a mixture of small and large donations, such as Dunn, Durrence and Malless.

Here is a list of individuals and businesses who have contributed more than $1,000 and which candidates and causes their donations support. (For the purposes of this list, there was no attempt to add donations from spouses or the contributors’ businesses.):

Gregory Fancelli/Gregory Fancelli Trust: $231,000. Strong Lakeland, Dunn, Malless, Sandy Toledo

Scott Franklin: $10,000 to his campaign

Barney Barnett: $8,000. No Boss Mayor, Franklin, Madden, Mutz

Jack Harrell: $8,000. No Boss Mayor, Franklin, Madden, Mutz

Lakeland Cold Storage: $5,000. No Boss Mayor

Land One Properties: $5,000. No Boss Mayor

Jorge Fonseca: $4,870 in contributions and $1,500 loan to his campaign

Jim Malless: $3,000 to his campaign

Ralph Allen/Ralph Allen Trust: $2,500. No Boss Lakeland, Franklin, Mutz

Ron Clark: $2,250. Durrence, Franklin, Malless, Mutz

Citizens for a Strong Lakeland: $2,193 in in-kind services

William Harrell: $2,000. Franklin, Madden, Mutz

Stephen Moore: $1,950. No Boss Mayor, Durrence, Franklin

Gene Strickland: $1,775. No Boss Mayor, Durrence, Franklin, Madden

Charles Bovay: $1,650. No Boss Mayor, Durrence, Franklin, Mutz

Larry Durrence: $1,557. No Boss Mayor and his campaign

Broadway Real Estate: $1,500. Durrence, Franklin

Clark Campbell, Lancaster, Munson: $1,500. Durrence, Franklin

Highland Enterprise Group Inc.: $1,500. Durrence, Madden, Mutz

Pranay Patel: $1,500. Franklin, Mutz

Wesley Beck: $1,500. Franklin, Madden, Mutz

O’Reilly Trust: $1,300. No Boss Mayor, Madden, Mutz, No Boss Mayor

Bruce Abels: $1,250. No Boss Mayor, Durrence, Mutz

Robert Kincart: $1,250. Madden, Mutz

Jack Stephens: $1,200. No Boss Mayor, Durrence, Franklin, Mutz

Frank Buzzanca: $1,125. Durrence, Malless

Sale Insurance: $1,100. Durrence, Madden