Copley Gerdes bests Bobbie Shay Lee, will replace Robert Blackmon on City Council

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Gerdes overcame a tough race against a strong challenger.

Copley Gerdes will be the next St. Petersburg City Council member representing District 1 after voters elected him Tuesday night.

Gerdes, the son of former City Council member Charlie Gerdes, received 54% of the vote, ahead of challenger Bobbie Shay Lee, who received 46%, with 83% of precincts reporting and mail ballots in.

“I want to thank each and every one of you for everything you’ve done to build this organization. We could not have achieved this result without your votes, your time, and your donations. Your support is incredibly humbling and something I will never forget,” Gerdes wrote on Facebook celebrating his win.
“I ran on the idea that we’re strongest when we stand together. Now, it’s time to get to work. The future is bright for St Petersburg — but only if we stay engaged and build on our progress. I look forward to working with you to realize our full potential.”

Gerdes will replace City Council member Robert Blackmon, who resigned to run for Mayor.

The election results are a staunch departure from results in the August Primary Election, where Gerdes and Lee finished virtually tied at 34% of the vote each.

The contrast in outcome is likely due to shifting election dynamics. The August Primary was open only to voters within District 1, while the General Election was open citywide. District 1 is one of only two City Council districts with a Republican majority in voter registration, albeit only slightly.

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.

While the race is nonpartisan — candidates’ political affiliations didn’t appear on the ballot — Gerdes is a registered Democrat and Lee a registered Republican.

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 earned support from six of the eight sitting Council members, including four he’ll serve with from the dais.

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

Lee, meanwhile, garnered support from local Republicans, none on City Council. 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.

Gerdes also went into Election Day with a slight advantage in the polls. 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.

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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