The ethical boundary has always been blurry for political operatives in the midst of a heated campaign, but that line may have been crossed by St. Petersburg-based Blue Ticket Consulting in the Tampa City Council races going on now.
Qualifying for the nonpartisan Tampa City Council races ends Jan. 18. The general election is March 5, with the runoff in April.
The ethical lapse could have been triggered by a string of previous losses by the Democratic consulting firm.
Hired on separate occasions by two Tampa City Council competitors, Blue Ticket accepted thousands of dollars from both John Godwin and Nicholas Glover when they vied in the District 2 race.
Two hours and 25 minutes after inquiries by Tampa Bay Beat into the questionable practice, Glover announced he was switching his candidacy to District 3. When I interviewed Glover in November about his candidacy, I asked him why he chose District 2.
"It’s the race I can win,” he said with a less-than-modest air.
According to financial records on file with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, Godwin, a community-involved progressive, paid Blue Ticket $5,155.44 from his total campaign expenses of $8,699.16, or 59.26 percent.
Godwin suspended the relationship feeling Blue Ticket had not provided sufficient service to warrant the expenditure. Blue Ticket co-founder Tom Alte claims Godwin failed to meet fundraising benchmarks the firm had established.
Glover forked over $3,999.16 to Blue Ticket from total expenses of $4,766.99 through Dec. 31 -- or about 83.89 percent.
Whichever candidate wins in Districts 2 and 3, the only projected winner is Blue Ticket. Though representing the candidates in different timeframes, Blue Ticket possessed inside knowledge of the Godwin campaign and advised Glover to run in that district. Shameful.
Check the above logos for lack of originality/replication. The most recent Glover incarnation sanitized District 2 from the design.
Blue Ticket is also representing former county commissioner Ed Turamchik in the Tampa mayor’s race. Turanchik’s wife, Jenny, contributed $250 to the Glover campaign, while he was running against Godwin in District 2, as the incestuous Blue Ticket web continued to spin.
Turanchik so far has spent $14,640.90 with Blue Ticket, His gravitas with Tampa’s progressive community has evaporated.
Here’s some more bad news for Turanchik and Glover: Blue Ticket is on a roll, but one that’s been coming up snake eyes. The last year has been a losing one for the consulting outfit, so it’s easy to speculate that taking on a candidate in the same race smacked of desperation.
Let’s take a look at Blue Ticket disappointments in 2018:
—Sean Shaw, in a battle of Tampanians, lost the Florida Attorney General’s race to Ashley Moody.
—In the Florida House District 70 Democratic primary, Vito Sheeley finished a distant third to incumbent Wengay Newton and Keisha Bell, a second challenger. Sheeley tallied under 15 percent of the vote.
—-In the District 69 Florida House race, Javier Centonzio dropped out of the primary in April against eventual winner Jennifer Webb.
—-In Florida House 62, Thomas Alvarez lost a three-way primary to Susan Valdes. Valdes scored 46 percent; Alvarez garnered 41 percent.
—-In the District 7 Hillsborough County Commission race, Blue Ticket’s Mark Nash (18.63 percent) finished third in a four-way field.
—-In District 2 Hillsborough County Commission, Angela Birdsong came within five points of longtime incumbent Ken Hagan. Observers have asserted that with more of a boost from the local Democratic Party and her consultants, Birdsong could have pulled off the upset.
Disclaimer: The author of this article, Jim Bleyer, contributed $50 to the John Godwin campaign. Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.