May 24, 2015

hometown democracy

Money and Strategy

The state's size and the weak economy pose fund-raising challenges.

Mike Vogel | 3/1/2010

Jim Kitchens Political consultant Jim Kitchens says the bad economy may work in favor of Hometown opponents, who can argue that the proposal to stop growth is bad for Florida. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

Each side in an amendment contest needs a minimum of $8 million to impact Florida's scattered media markets, says consultant Jim Kitchens, of Kitchens Group in Maitland. "It's a very complicated state and a very expensive media state to play in. It can get hugely expensive in a battle like this," says Kitchens, whose firm isn't involved in the contest.

Both sides face a challenge in raising money in a weak economy. As of October, Florida Hometown Democracy had spent $1.53 million of the $1.54 million it's raised since 2003. The opposition business group, Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, has spent $3.9 million of the $4.2 million it's raised since 2007. The business group, with its wealthier base, should have the edge in fund raising. Kitchens expects business to be more focused on the amendment than even the governor's race — to the detriment of those candidates' fund raising.

The pro-amendment side has a simple task — tapping populist anger, Kitchens says. University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus says the amendment may benefit from a strong anti-incumbent sentiment she's seeing among voters.

Floridians for Smarter Growth, the precursor to Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, tried unsuccessfully for two years to get its own superseding amendment on the ballot that would have made it much harder for referendums over land-use plans to be held. But the group has given up in favor of focusing on defeating Hometown Democracy.

Given the economy, it will be easier to argue that closing the growth spigot is bad, Kitchens says. It will be especially important for Amendment 4 opponents to use editorials and newspaper coverage critical of Hometown Democracy as bad public policy, he says. That third-party validation then can be used in advertising to sway voters and counter the image of populists battling a big special interest.

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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