Ballot is set for St. Pete mayoral, City Council races

Eight candidates are vying for Mayor, but only two can move on.

The ballot is set for St. Petersburg mayoral and City Council races after the city’s qualifying deadline passed at 5 p.m. Friday.

The Mayor’s race will include eight candidates and one write-in, while two City Council seats — District 2 and District 6 — drew just two candidates, sending those races straight to the November General Election.

The District 1 Special Election to replace City Council member Robert Blackmon, who is running for Mayor, drew four candidates. Voters will choose from five candidates in the Aug. 24 Primary Election for District 4, and four candidates in District 8.

Mayoral candidates include Blackmon, City Council member Darden Rice, former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, former City Council member Wengay Newton, restaurateur Pete Boland, University of South Florida St. Pete student Michael Ingram, marketer Marcile Powers and a newcomer to the race, Torry Nelson, who filed Thursday and qualified for the race on Friday.

Rice and Welch have long been considered frontrunners in the race, but Blackmon could shake things up for them. Both Rice and Welch are Democrats, while Blackmon is a Republican. While city races are nonpartisan, voters tend to pay attention to party affiliation regardless and partisanship typically becomes a part of the campaign process, even if it’s only implicit.

Under the city charter, the top two vote-getters in the Primary Election will move on to the Nov. 2 General Election. That means Blackmon’s entrance in the race could set up a partisan divide that leaves room for just one of the top-tier Democrats if he claims the conservative lane and nabs a top-two spot.

Rice so far is the top fundraiser, having brought in nearly $600,000 between her official campaign account and affiliated political committee, Friends of Darden Rice. Welch follows with more than $332,000 raised in his campaign and affiliated committee, Pelican PAC.

That’s far more than any other candidate in the race. But Blackmon, who comparatively speaking entered the race far later than either Rice or Welch, self-reported to media raising more than $100,000 in his first two weeks on the campaign trail, meaning he’s working hard to catch up fast. Blackmon hasn’t filed a finance report yet with the Florida Division of Elections for his political committee, Prosperous St. Petersburg, but reported raising $21,500 for his official campaign in May.

Newton was originally thought to also be a competitive candidate in the race, but his fundraising activity suggests otherwise. Newton so far has raised just $23,000 as of the end of May in his official campaign.

The race also includes write-in candidate Michael Levinson, a former congressional write-in candidate whose campaign website is sure to delight anyone interested in the musings of a “poet prophet.”

The race has one less candidate with the qualifying deadline passed — Realtor Vincent Nowicki withdrew on June 14.

City Council ballots will include the following candidates:

District 1 Special Election (held congruent with regular elections)

Edwin Carlson

Copley Gerdes

John Hornbeck

Bobbie Shay Lee

District 2 (General Election only)

Brandi Gabbard (incumbent)

Kyle Hall

District 4

Jarib Figueredo

Lisset Hanewicz

Clifford Hobbs

Tom Mullins

Douglas O’Dowd

District 6 (General Election only)

Gina Driscoll (incumbent)

Mhariel Summers

District 8

Jeff Danner

Richie Floyd

Dane Kuplicki

Jamie Mayo

Janelle Irwin Taylor

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 [email protected].


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