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Deborah Figgs-Sanders narrowly edges out Trenia Cox

It was the tightest race of the night.

Deborah Figgs-Sanders pulled out a victory Tuesday night in the city’s only competitive City Council race on the ballot this year. Figgs-Sanders beat out Trenia Cox 51 to 49 percent.

Her victory isn’t a huge surprise, but the narrow margin might be. Figgs-Sanders had been leading by double digits in the most recent poll.

Figgs-Sanders will replace Steve Kornell in District 5, which represents parts of South St. Pete including Greater Pinellas Point, Lakewood Estates and the Skyway Marina District, among others. Kornell is leaving office due to term limits.

“I want to thank everyone who contributed to my campaign. From the beginning, I have stated that this campaign has been about us and not about me. I promise to serve with integrity, dignity, and to never forget the trust you put in me,” Figgs-Sanders said.

The District 5 contest emerged as an unlikely display of partisanship in a non-partisan race. While part politics crept into several races this year, it was a surprise to see in a race between two Democrats.

An Analysis of Cox’s campaign contributions found several contributions from conservative donors and political committees affiliated with Republican current and former elected officials. Rules in nonpartisan elections are fairly lax. Candidates cannot advertise their party affiliation during campaign-related discussions or events or on campaign-related materials or advertisements.

Rules do not stop them from highlighting ideological differences between candidates, which is often an obvious hint at partisanship. Figgs-Sanders didn’t bring it up herself, but her supporters, notable including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, frequently took to social media to blast Cox for her conservative ties that, in addition to campaign contributions, includes support from former Republican Mayor Rick Baker and campaign consulting from Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.

St. Pete is overwhelmingly liberal. Nearly 85,000 St. Pete voters are registered Democrats compared to less than 49,000 registered Republicans. That means the partisan twist could have played well for Figgs-Sanders.

Otherwise, the two campaigns were, on paper, virtually indistinguishable.

Figgs-Sanders’ priorities include affordable workforce housing, environmental preservation, youth programs and services and small business development. Cox’s priorities were almost identical.

Figgs-Sanders will take office Jan. 2, per the existing City Charter.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. jon

    November 6, 2019 at 6:40 am

    The lesser of two DEMOCRATIC evils! I voted for her… but don’t expect much either. Just more of the same..race, race race bullshit!

  2. jon

    November 6, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Why I chose her…. het family owns a business! I thought she would be more business friendly, and not “give me” incline!

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