Bobbie Shay Lee, Copley Gerdes finished the Primary neck-and-neck; Are they heading for a repeat?

Gerdes, Lee
On paper, it's close, but partisanship may paint a different story.

Their’s was the tightest race of all St. Petersburg Primary Election battles, but are City Council District 1 candidates Bobbie Shay Lee and Copley Gerdes headed for another nail biter?

On paper, it’s anyone’s guess.

The two finished the August Primary in a virtual tie, at 34% of the vote each.

They’ve raised similar war chests. As of Oct. 15, Gerdes had raised slightly more, at $76,000. Lee raised nearly $64,000.

Polling is close, too. The most recent survey, taken by St. Pete Polls in late September, showed Gerdes with a slight lead over Lee, at 23.5% support to 20%. Yet, 56% of respondents in that poll were still undecided.

But in theory, Gerdes may hold the edge.

Gerdes, the son of former District 1 Council member Charlie Gerdes, is a Democrat. Lee, a lobbyist and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleader, is a Republican. While the race is nonpartisan, meaning candidates’ political affiliations won’t appear on the ballot, Democrats have a strong advantage in citywide elections.

That means Gerdes could have an advantage heading into Tuesday’s election. Unlike the Primary, which was open only to voters who live in District 1, one of only two districts in the city with more registered Republicans than Democrats, voters throughout the city can cast a ballot in the race in the General Election.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in District 1 by about 300 voters. Citywide, Democrats have a nearly 38,000 voter advantage, with 86,494 registered Democrats to 48,798 Republicans, according to the most recent data with the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

Gerdes, a financial planner, currently serves on the board for the Police Athletic League, where he frequently works with individuals on both sides of the aisle. He has earned support from six of the eight sitting Council members, including four he would serve with if elected.

Darden Rice and Amy Foster, both leaving office because of term limits, have offered their endorsements. Other endorsers include Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Deborah Figgs-Sanders, who aren’t facing reelection this cycle; Brandi Gabbard, who was reelected this year without opposition; and Gina Driscoll, who will share the ballot with Gerdes.

Lee, meanwhile, has support from local Republicans, none on City Council. Robert Blackmon and Ed Montanari, the current board’s only registered Republicans, have not endorsed in the race.

Her supporters include Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters, Reps. Chris Latvala and Linda Chaney, former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters and former Pinellas County Commissioner Tammy Vasquez, among others.

Lee is a breast cancer survivor and advocate who works tirelessly on research initiatives, including through ensuring the National Football League used funds through its Pink Ribbon program for breast cancer research initiatives, as intended.

The two are running to succeed Blackmon, who resigned to run for Mayor and will top Tuesday’s ballot in a race against former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch.

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and remain open until 7 p.m. Any eligible voter in line by 7 p.m. will be able to cast a ballot.

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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