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Mayoral candidate Lenny Curry talks to millenial-age supporters during a June 30 fundraiser at BREW Five Points.

Lenny Curry's record-setting fundraising bolstered by newcomers to political scene

By Marilyn Young, Editor

Lenny Curry’s mayoral election team wanted a big first fundraising month.

One that would send a strong message to competitors, current and future.

But the $568,730 raised in the first monthly reporting period greatly exceeded the team’s initial expectations.

“We were hoping to get half this,” said Marty Fiorentino, chairman of Curry’s finance committee.

When the team hit that goal about midway through June, the next target was: “Let’s see if we can hit a half-million,” Fiorentino said.

Then the team beat that goal.

“It was amazing,” he said. “Just the number of people — Democrats, Republicans, young, old — all contributing.”

Curry called the fundraising total “humbling.” This is Curry’s first run for office, though he spent years as head of the Duval County and Florida Republican parties.

His political action committee, Together for a Greater Jacksonville, collected $408,100, mostly through 13 donations of $25,000.

Insurance executive Tom Petway and his family accounted for three of those donations. Peter and Lee Ann Rummell each donated $25,000. The two families and their businesses also contributed $7,000 in the local campaign account.

Both Petway and Peter Rummell were early supporters of Curry.

Rummell was largely responsible for a massive fundraising effort for Mayor Alvin Brown’s 2011 campaign.

He let it be known publicly in April he was parting ways with Brown and would support Curry, several weeks before he filed to run.

Other high-profile $25,000 donors were Ed Burr, Gary Chartrand, Wayne Weaver and J.B. Coxwell, who supported Mike Hogan in 2011.

While Curry was thankful for the big-money donations, he also was thrilled with the 279 donations made to the local campaign account.

More than three-quarters of the $160,630 came through 124 contributions of $1,000, the maximum allowed to the local campaign. Curry’s business partner, Todd Froats, and both of their businesses donated the $1,000 maximum.

Other well-known donors included former Gov. Jeb Bush ($500), the Dalton Agency’s Michael Munz ($1,000) and former state Republican Party Chairman Tom Slade ($1,000).

More than $29,000 in donations came through Curry’s website, lennycurryformayor.com.

Brown has raised nearly $868,000 through his state committee, including more than $93,000 last month. The mayor’s local contribution report is due today. As of last month, he had raised about $445,000.

City Council member Bill Bishop also is a candidate and has raised about $37,050, including June's donations. Other rumored candidates include City Council member Bill Gulliford and Jim Bailey, publisher of the Daily Record.

Curry said the variety of contribution amounts and professions of the donors to the local account show strong grassroots support. Most of the donations were below $1,000, including as small as $20.

He said he was particularly touched by a contribution made by his former high school football coach.

“That’s just special,” Curry said. “Much of my work ethic, discipline, focus and the ability to continue on, I got from him.”

Fiorentino talked about three fundraisers the campaign had in June — two at private homes and one at a Five Points brewery.

As a 25-year veteran of raising money for Republican candidates at all levels, Fiorentino knows the typical donors.

When he walked into the first June event at an Ortega home, there were about 50 people there. “I knew about six of them,” he said. “I knew right then this campaign was different.”

That event raised about $40,000, he said.

The following week, there was a fundraiser on the Northside that brought in a different group of people, Fiorentino said.

On June 30, a group of millennials held an event at BREW Five Points, which again brought in a new set of faces.

Fiorentino said there’s a fundraiser this month at the Epping Forest home of Hugh and Caterina Caron.

“These are people who I don’t even know,” Fiorentino said.

And that’s fine by him.

myoung@baileypub.com

@editormarilyn

(904) 356-2466

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