Incumbent Democrat Charlie Justice maintain the county-wide District 3 on the Pinellas County Commission.
In a narrow victory, Justice earned 50.34%, of the vote. Republican challenger Tammy Sue Vasquez lost, garnering 49.66% of the vote. This is with 100% of precints reporting, but does not include provisional ballots or 10 day overseas ballots.
Justice was elected to Pinellas County Commission initially in 2012, and then reelected in 2016. Before serving on the County Commission, Justice served three terms in the Florida House and one term in the Florida Senate.
Justice’s thin victory margin comes a bit as a surprise, with polls originally predicting a safe win for the incumbent — a St. Pete Polls survey found the commissioner with a 14 point lead over Vasquez, with a 52% to 38% margin in District 3.
Political newcomer Vasquez challenged Justice after growing frustrated with the commission’s dealings on the county’s COVID-19 response. Vasquez owns Bark Life, a small business that sells pet supplies and provides dog grooming services. Like other similar businesses, she had to temporarily shut down grooming services as the county upheld a state order from Gov. Ron DeSantis declaring them non-essential.
Vasquez rallied against commissioners for not loosening the Governor’s order. While the Governor’s order was ambiguous in some ways, it did make clear that while local orders could be more restrictive, they could not be less restrictive.
Vasquez faced criticism in following campaign finance reports showing payments to Bark Life for office rent. By subletting the office space to her campaign, Bark Life LLC saved thousands on rent payments — funded from campaign donations.
While Justice’s lead in the win was substantial, Vasquez has kept competitive in the money race. Vasquez raised $85,574 — bringing in about $27,000 less than Justice, who collected $112,495.
The incumbent Democrats led the race largely based on partisan crossover appeal. Justice claims 80% support among Democrats with only 11% supporting Vasquez while 21% of Republicans indicated support for Justice.