Palm Harbor Republican Johnny Johnson Jr., with a little help from his fellow dentists, blasted ahead of the competition in the crowded GOP race for Pinellas County Commission District 4, besting many well-known local political names.
The retired pediatric dentist, best known for leading the fight in 2012 to restore fluoridation in Pinellas County, is running to replace Republican Susan Latvala, who announced in January she would not seek re-election.
Johnson reported nearly 125 individual contributions for a solid $48,195 in April – with $20,000 in campaign loans — and including $7,550 from 27 separate north Pinellas County dentists. Johnson’s total contributions now stand at $73,775.
As of Wednesday afternoon, April financial reports are still pending from the remaining candidates, but it appears Johnson has a substantial lead over his next closest GOP rival, Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers, who has collected $10,360 through March.
Among the big donors to Johnson’s campaign last month were $1,000 checks from Alabama-based property management company Navron Corp.; Sports Katz Media owner Lori Mattox; entertainer Herb Sylvester; Robert Venniro, owner of the Banana Boat Too; Clearwater dentist Dr. Robert Churney and attorney Ed Armstrong.
Susan Latvala also gave Johnson $500.
District 4 is a heavily Republican area that covers most of North Pinellas, with Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor and East Lake.
Once Latvala declared her retirement from the BOCC, the door quickly opened for several leading Republicans to jump in the race: Eggers, former state Representative Peter Nehr and Wanda Kimsey, a former assistant to retired Pinellas Commissioner Bob Stewart. Largo firefighter Macho Liberti, data analyst Scott Fisher, small business owner Timothy Keffalas also make up the GOP field.