Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has endorsed Ed Montanari for House District 60.
Montanari, a current member of St. Petersburg City Council and the only Republican on the nonpartisan board, is running to unseat incumbent Democratic Rep. Lindsay Cross.
“There is no better friend of law enforcement on the St. Petersburg City Council than Ed Montanari,” the Republican Sheriff said.
“He knows how hard the men and women in law enforcement work to keep our neighborhoods safe, and Ed will never fail to equip our police and Sheriff’s deputies with the resources they need to do their job. Ed will fight for law enforcement and the rule of law in the Florida House, and I am proud to endorse his campaign.”
The St. Pete Republican is likely an ideal candidate in the battleground district where Democrats carry a slight voter registration advantage with just under 41,000 voters compared to just over 36,000 Republican voters, according to the most recent voter registration data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.
Montanari is known for his calm demeanor, quiet disposition, thoughtful consideration of policy and moderate approach to governance.
“At a time when crime seems to be on the rise in cities all over the country, Sheriff Gualtieri’s leadership has helped Pinellas County remain a safe place for families and businesses, and I look forward to continuing our work together in the future,” Montanari said of the endorsement Tuesday.
Montanari was first elected to the City Council in 2015 and was re-elected to a second term in 2019. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served on active duty flying F-16 fighter aircraft. He also served in the Air Force Reserves as an Air Operations Officer in Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.
His military honors include the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Combat Readiness Medal and others. Montanari is also a retired pilot for American Airlines.
Cross won her seat in the House two years ago by 8 percentage points over GOP candidate Audrey Henson in a year where Republicans were overwhelmingly successful in Florida, leading to supermajorities in both legislative chambers. And like Montanari, Henson was a moderate Republican.
Cross has a healthy head start on fundraising, with nearly $108,000 banked since mid-December. Of that, Cross maintains about $94,000. She has another approximately $27,000 on-hand in an affiliated political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward.
Montanari officially entered the race on Oct. 13 and has not yet posted any fundraising data. But he’s proven himself an effective fundraiser, with more than $150,000 banked in his 2019 City Council campaign, a large sum for a local race.