Campaign Donations Skyrocket

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

ATLANTIC BEACH -- Running for mayor in Atlantic Beach is no longer an inexpensive venture.

Two of this year's three candidates for mayor have far exceeded any of their predecessors in campaign fund-raising for the post, and the third candidate is about $200 shy of the former record.

City Clerk records show Donna Harper is leading the pack for the Oct. 4 election with $48,000 collected in contributions to her campaign. She contributed $20,000 of that herself.

Don Wolfson is second with $20,455, including $3,000 he loaned to his campaign.

Rick Beaver raised $17,300 in campaign contributions, $195 shy of the previous record set by retiring Mayor John Meserve during his 2003 campaign.

The figures are in the Sept. 9 campaign finance reports; that was the most recent reporting deadline.

Meserve said that prior to his last campaign, contributions usually were around $5,000 total for mayoral candidates.

"We certainly have exceeded what we expected to raise in order to run," Wolfson said this week. He said the costs of campaign materials, such as brochures mailed to potential voters in the city, have skyrocketed.

Beaver agreed campaign costs have jumped and while he's raised near-record amounts in contributions, he said he's done so begrudgingly.

"Atlantic Beach is a small community," said Beaver, who is vacating his City Commission Seat 5 because of term limits. "I've been involved in the city for 16 years. You went and you met people. . . . You didn't have to have $20,000 to get the word out."

Harper said campaigning for mayor in Atlantic Beach has entered a new era.

"It sounds like it," she said, noting that she has contributed more to her own campaign than what most of her opponents have raised. But she added, "I'm not a professional politician here."

The question of how much money is being raised is coupled with questions about the sources of the candidates' money.

Beaver had 79 contributions listed on his Sept. 9 campaign finance report, and 63 of those came from contributors with Atlantic Beach addresses.

Wolfson had 56 contributions, 38 coming from Atlantic Beach.

Harper received 86 campaign contributions. Nine of those were from Atlantic Beach, including her own.

Most of her contributions were from people or businesses with Jacksonville addresses. …