Tuesday, July 24, 2007

St. Pete Council Races Set

Yesterday was the close of qualifying for St. Pete City Council races. There will be two primaries in September. In District 3 where Bill Foster is term limited out and in District 5, where Jamie Bennett is running for reelection.

District 3 is the only seat up this cycle that is currently held by a Republican. The Democrats only chance to pick up this seat rests on the shoulders of Cathy Harrelson. Harrelson is an investment advisor and financial professional. She is also a past President of the Sierra Club, although that is not prominently featured on her web site. Also, her campaign is being run by Darden Rice, another Sierra Club leader. Rice ran and lost against Ernest Williams in 2005. This despite raising $50,000.

There are two Republicans running to keep this seat on their side of the ledger. Bill Dudley, a retired high school wrestling coach is running again after losing to Bill Foster in the general election in 2003. Ed Montanari is the remaining candidate. He ran Bill Foster's campaign in 2003. Ed is a commerical airline pilot and was Chair of the Albert Whitted Advisory Task Force. This is going to be the toughest race in the City this cycle.

Jamie Bennett has drawn 2 opponents in his bid to retain the City Council seat he first won in 2001. Bennett was unopposed in 2003 and was hoping to get a campaign this time. Bennett has aspirations to run for Mayor in 2009 and wants a platform to start that campaign. Well, he certainly got one. Chris Kelly, another Democrat has filed to run. Kelly is co-founder of Pinellas Heritage and is a former President of the Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association. Also running is Debra Woodard. Woodard is a 55 year old African American Democrat. Unfortunately not much else is know about Ms. Woodard at this point. The Republicans apparently were unable to come up with a challenger despite the rantings of Dave the Appraiser. Well, better luck next time Dave (not). One would have to give the early edge to Jamie Bennett right now. However, one would also be careful about what you ask for. Jamie may have gotten more than he bargained for.

In District 1 Herb Polson, who was newly appointed to fill the seat vacated by State Rep. Rick Kriseman, will face off against former City Council Member Bob Kersteen. Kersteen is a 70 year old Republican who last served on the City Council in 2000. Polson is one of the most qualified people ever to run for a City Council seat. He retired from the City of St. Petersburg last year in hopes of being appointed to fill Krisemans seat as Rick ran for the state House. Herb's hope was fulfilled when the Council appointed him over, you guessed it, Bob Kersteen. Because elections are about the future and Herb is superbly qualified, I'd have to say that this will be a laugher.

That brings us to District 7 where Rene Flowers can not run again due to term limits. There will be no primary here as only 2 candidates qualified. In November Wengay Newton will square off against Gershom Faulkner. Wengay Newton is president of the Westminster Heights Neighborhood Association. His brother Winnie also happens to be president of the local fire fighters union. Faulkner was the long term aide to state Rep. Frank Peterman and is currently Outreach Director for Congresswoman Kathy Castor. Faulkner certainly has the inside track on endorsements from elected officials. This starts with the Dems in the Pinellas legislative delegation, runs through the Dems on the County Commission, includes Mary Brown on the School board and several other local elected officials. Faulkner was also Deputy campaign manager for Kathy Castor's successful primary election for the Congressional seat vacated by Jim Davis. He knows what it takes to win elections and seems to be doing most things right. This should be a big win for Faulkner who is a real up and comer in the Democratic Party.

Turnout is likely to be extremely low in the primary elections. It will be only slightly better for the general election in November. It is pretty safe to say the Dems will at least hold on to their 5-3 majority on the council. It is also possible that they might gain a 6th seat, although that is looking like a pretty tough proposition right now.

We'll have something on 2nd quarter fund raising soon. So stay tuned. This could be interesting.

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