McKinlay’s $387,478 appears to set commission fund-raising record

Win or lose, Melissa McKinlay might have set a record for most campaign money ever raised by a candidate for a Palm Beach County Commission race.

McKinley, a Democrat in the three-way race to replace Commissioner Jess Santamaria in District 6, had raised $387,478 as of Oct. 24 – an amount even an opponent’s seasoned political consultant finds impressive, not least of which because she is making her first run for public office.

“It’s just unprecedented,’’ said Richard Giorgio, of the West Palm Beach firm Patriot Games, who is working for independent Michelle Santamaria.

According to reports filed Friday, Santamaria’s campaign raised $126,100 while the Jess and Michelle Santamaria for Honest Government political action committee had raised an additional $140,000. Republican Andy Schallar’s campaign reported raising $30,397.

McKinlay says she’s not coordinating with any political action committees.

In the last six years, only Commissioner Hal Valeche came close to McKinlay’s total, raising $335,000 in 2012. Among local race candidates, only Sheriff Ric Bradshaw raised more — $487,000 in 2008.

Long-time campaign strategists can’t remember another county commission candidate raising that much money in the past 20 years.

“She certainly has cornered the market on campaign contributions in this race,’’ said Jody Young, who ran the first half of McKinlay’s campaign before he resigned to focus on Democratic state Rep. Mark Pafford’s campaign.

McKinlay — seeking the western district seat that sweeps from Wellington to the Glades — said her campaign contributions are an indication of widespread support for her candidacy from people and businesses.

The amount of money is “a sign of special-interests control” of McKinlay, said Giorgio, who also worked on former Wellington mayor Kathy Foster’s unsuccessful primary race against McKinlay.

McKinlay’s largest block of contributions totals $9,000 from developer GL Homes and related businesses that share the same address.

GL Homes is trying to loosen building restrictions in the county’s Agricultural Reserve and has been angling to build homes on 5,000 acres just north and west of Minto West, the controversial multi-use development approved by the County Commission this week.

Her next largest single-address sum is $6,300 from Waste Management and its related trash-hauling companies.

About $42,000 came from lawyers and nearly $30,000 from agricultural interests, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of McKinlay’s contributions.

U.S. Sugar Corp. and firms that share its address chipped in $5,000, while companies related to Wellington’s billionaire Jacobs family contributed $4,000.

“It tells me the people backing her believe that District 6 in Palm Beach County is for sale,’’ Schaller said.

Schaller said he is confident about his chances on Tuesday even though he has raised far less than McKinlay or Santamaria.

“I’m going to win this on 5 percent of what my competitors put in,’’ Schaller said. “I want this not to be a corporate feeding ground for politicians and anybody who is for sale for a job. I won’t do it.’’

McKinlay said most of her money – about $225,000 – was raised before the Aug. 26 primary, which she won handily over Foster.

“She has taken equal money from both sides from typical issues,” Young said. “She has union money but she has biz-pac money and the two of them are traditionally on opposite sides.”

McKinlay said she has made it clear to GL Homes and other supporters that she will vote on issues as she sees fit after carefully studying both sides.

“You can’t be beholden to anybody when you are getting support from both sides of nearly every issue and I’m not the type of person who will allow myself to be beholden to anybody,’’ she said.

If elected, she said, “I’m going to have an open-door policy. Contributions have nothing to do with my decisions. Unfortunately in this process it takes money to run a race.’’

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