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Ed Montanari dominates challenger Orlando Acosta at the polls

It might have been closer than some would have expected.

St. Petersburg City Council member Ed Montanari will serve a second term in the northeast St. Pete District 3 seat after voters resoundingly reelected him Tuesday.

Montanari crushed his opponent, Orlando Acosta, 54 to 46 percent.

“I’m deeply honored and humbled by the trust the voters have placed in me to continue to be their voice on City Council,” Montanari said. “It’s a testament to all we have accomplished together these past four years as well as our shared vision for the future of St. Petersburg. I’m proud of the positive campaign we ran that focused on people, not politics. Our city thrives when we all work together to get things done and that’s exactly what I’ll continue to do in my second term. I would also like to thank my family, friends, colleagues, supporters and volunteers for their hard work and dedication these last several months, I’m blessed to have you all in my life.”

Montanari entered the race a popular incumbent. He was elected without opposition four years ago and looked poised to enjoy the same fate this year until Acosta filed for the seat the final week of qualifying for the election. Acosta got off to a slow start in his campaign, but by mid-summer the race took a sharp partisan turn.

Acosta staked most of his campaign on efforts to tie Montanari, to President Donald Trump.

The campaign placed door hangers on voters’ doors and sent mailers showing a photo of Montanari in black and white with a red “Make America Great Again” hat Photoshopped onto his head. The campaign materials claimed several ties to Trump including past votes against the environment and LGBTQ rights. However, Montanari’s supporters, many of whom were Democrats, rejected the claims noting that Montanari had legislated in a collegial manner.

Montanari fought back against the partisan attacks by laying low and sticking to his commitment to the city. He also pointed to votes that debunked Acosta’s claims including votes to support efforts to combat climate change and protect equal pay for women.

The campaign never faltered and continued mounting endorsements including from almost all of his colleagues on City Council, all of whom are Democrats.

“St. Petersburg voters soundly repudiated the divisive, partisan politics that were introduced into this election by the Florida Democrat Party and its consultants,” said Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Todd Jennings.

Montanari also ran a strong ground campaign, with large teams of volunteers canvassing neighborhoods to spread his positive message for the city and counter attacks from Acosta.

Acosta took to Facebook shortly after votes were counted to thank voters for their support despite the election not going their way.

“We need to continue putting pressure on our Councilmembers to vote in accordance with our values and we must remind them them how important these issues are to us. Voters asked if I was coming back, win or lose – and I am coming back I’m going to stay engaged, advocating for the thousands of people I met over the course of this campaign who feel left out of our political process. I hope you’ll join me,” he wrote.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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