Realtor Brandi Gabbard has won a seat on the St. Petersburg City Council, defeating banker Barclay Harless 61 percent to 39 percent.
The contest featured two candidates with distinctive backgrounds and policy prescriptions who competed all year long to succeed Jim Kennedy. He served on the board for 10 years, making him the longest-serving current council member.
St. Pete voters cast ballots Tuesday to determine who would be St. Pete’s mayor for the next four years — and the direction of the city, some said — as well as deciding three City Council races.
Voters overwhelmingly approved an extension of the Penny for Pinellas one-cent infrastructure sales tax (83 percent to 17 percent), and to allow the historic Vinoy Renaissance hotel to upgrade its parking garage.
Gabbard raised $52,673 in the race, but was greatly aided by support from the Pinellas Realtors Association, who spent thousands of dollars in mailers advocating for her election bid.
That became the most contentious issue of the campaigne. Harless made a pledge in September to reject unlimited spending from outside groups and called on Gabbard to follow suit.
“It was important to me to become an independent member of our City Council,” he said, “not beholden to outside special interests.”
Gabbard refused to back down and continued to enjoy the Realtors’ support.
“My integrity would never be compromised based on any contribution that would ever be given to me,” Gabbard said at a Tiger Bay Club debate.
It was not surprising the Pinellas Realtors Organization supports Gabbard: She is a Realtor who held many positions within the organization over the years.
Gabbard becomes the fourth female on the council, joining Darden Rice, Amy Foster, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and newcomer Gina Driscoll.