Shawn Harrison expenses over 150 meals to campaign account

Republican Rachel Burgin, running for re-election in House District 56, has spent more than $139,000, but no meals.

Democrat Janet Cruz has spent more than $20,000 in her race against independent Joe Redner, no meals purchased.

We looked at Harrison's Democratic opponent, Russ Patterson, and his $65,000 in expenditures.  We couldn't find any meals paid for by campaign funds, though there were several large purchases to Coffee — but that's Ella Coffee, his political strategist.

It's certainly not atypical for candidates to spend some money on food, so we don't want to give the impression that even the majority of candidates are like the ones we randomly selected.

But over 150 items?

CL contacted Harrison for comment on Saturday afternoon.  He has not returned our call as of Monday morning.

Former Tampa City Councilman Shawn Harrison is running against Democrat Russ Patterson in the race for the District 60 House seat next month, succeeding a term-limited Ed Homan.

It's expected to be a close election.  It's the first time around electorally for Patterson, a retired Air Force Officer who has doggedly campaigned at Democratic party events for well over a year.  Harrison served eight years on the Tampa City Council, representing North Tampa.  He was stunningly defeated by Democrat Mary Mulhern when he ran citywide for Tampa City Council in 2007.

Looking over the candidates' fundraising totals, CL was surprised to see the large amounts of expenditures by Harrison for food and drink. Of the $110, 558.60 that Harrison has spent over the past year and a half since he announced his candidacy, $6,925.21 has been spent on meals.

Now none of the establishments Harrison and his campaign crew have dined at on their contributors' dimes have been extravagant, nor do they appear to be blowouts. But the Republican lists over 150 such line items on his expenditures form, including 10 stops at Starbucks, 11 to the Old World Cheese Stop,  10 to Jason's Deli, 9 to Lenny's Latin Cafe and, 6 trips to Burger King, among other purchases.

State election law says candidates are allowed to spend for meals with a campaign-related purpose, but they are prohibited from using funds on "normal living expenses."

A cursory review of other candidates running for office from the Bay area found very little expenditures on meals.

Republican Dana Young, running in House District 47, has spent over $273,000 in her race against Democrat Stacy Frank.  Yet we couldn't find a single expenditure for a purchase of a meal.

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