Former colleagues battle for Pinellas County Tax Collector in GOP primary
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Joyell Bobala is challenging incumbent Charles Thomas, her former boss.

The race for Pinellas County Tax Collector will pit a former employee against an ex-boss in the Republican Primary Election.

Republican candidate Joyell Bobala spent 21 years in the office before resigning as tax supervisor in May. Bobala will be running against her former boss and incumbent Charles Thomas.

Thomas has served as Pinellas County Tax Collector since 2017, and worked as chief deputy tax collector for 16 years prior.

Bobala said she decided to run against her former boss due in part to “a lack of trust, a lack of transparency, favoritism” and “a demoralizing internal culture,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. Bobala has also earned the endorsement of former tax collector Diane Nelson, who previously endorsed Thomas in the 2016 election following her retirement.

Thomas, on the other hand, boasts several Governor’s Sterling Awards in 2013, 2016 and 2020. He also earned endorsements from local Republican leaders, including Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Rep. Chris Sprowls, the incoming Florida House speaker.

The incumbent has also led in fundraising, raising nearly double the amount as his former subordinate. Thomas has collected $84,885 in contributions, and Bobala has raised $35,524. 

The Republican candidates have spent around the same amount leading up to the primaries — Thomas has spent $30,200 and Bobala $32,324. 

However, Thomas still has $54,685 cash on hand, showing he’s ready for the General Election. Bobala would start with only $3,200.

The race has one Democratic challenger, Joseph Saportas.

Saportas campaign fundraising fell under scrutiny in June for potential illegal activity. His campaign finance report revealed glaring problems and potentially illegal contributions. The reports suggest fiscal incompetence as multiple amendments were needed to his first financial report.

The Democrat has raised $17,779 since the start of his campaign and, although he does not face a primary opponent, has spent $13,139 throughout his campaign, leaving him with $4,640 for the General Election. 

The Pinellas County tax collector oversees 275 employees. Each year, the office is responsible for collecting more than $1 billion in tax revenue.

The office also issues vehicle registrations, titles, drivers licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, among other services. The tax collector serves a four-year term.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


One comment

  • William P

    August 16, 2020 at 10:50 am

    It appears that both Republicans have been on the Government dole for long enough. I am a Conservative small government Republican.

    Any public official in local state and national political positions should have a two term or 8 year maximum tenure.

    Hopefully President Donald Trump will be in a position after reelection to offer a national referendum on this matter plus audit every department of the United States Government to its relevance and gainful purpose.

    This view is not new however it appalls me that the career politicians at every level never discuss this abusive and problematic structure of government power at the expense of our citizenry.

    These comments are made out of sadness and disappointment. The USA has the political and media current status due to our personal complacency and undisciplined behavior.

    No God no prayer in school or home no love of country abortion on every corner no family structure no respect for others or authority ignorance of US founding no personal responsibility instant gratification lack of charity has led the USA to no love and no faith in God

    It all starts with you and me… be grateful do you best thank God for every day
    Please find your purpose
    Work and study to be your best and be good unto to others
    Finally pray that the citizens of the USA take back our Country
    In God we Trust

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