Clearwater City Council member Mark Bunker faces 2 challengers at the ballot box

Bunker Cotton Mastruserio
Scientology is on the ballot, figuratively.

Mark Bunker first won his seat on Clearwater City Council in 2020, in Seat 2, and is facing his first re-election bid against two challengers — firefighter Ryan Cotton and marketing pro Mike Mastruserio.

Bunker is a vocal critic of Scientology who ran in 2020 with support from King of Queens star Leah Remini who left the church in 2013 and has since sought to publicly uncover its inner workings, like Bunker. In 2019 she launched a docuseries on the A&E Network uncovering secrets about the church from her own experience as a member and through interviews with ex-practitioners.

Bunker first came to Clearwater in 2000 when he accepted a position with the Lisa McPherson Trust managing multimedia for the group, which sought to expose deceptive and abusive practices within the Church of Scientology and assist people they believed were abused and defrauded by the group. Bunker recorded interviews with former Scientologists and protests against the group.

He’s running with backing from anti-Scientology forces again this year, including from Clearwater resident Aaron Smith-Levin, a fierce Scientology critic who himself ran unsuccessfully for City Council. He was removed from the Aftermath Foundation Board — a group he co-founded to help those attempting to leave Scientology — over alleged ethics violations.

Now, Bunker faces a competitive race for re-election. Mastruserio, a local marketing executive, has raised more than $41,000 for his bid, the second highest fundraising in the race behind Bunker, who has raised nearly $55,000. Cotton trails with just over $23,000 raised.

Bunker not only has a fundraising lead in the race, but an outside push from the Florida Democratic Party through its Take Back Local program. The program targets candidates who align with the party who are running in nonpartisan local elections. Bunker is one of two candidates in Clearwater the program is supporting. Javante Scott, who is running for the Seat 3 spot on Clearwater City Council, also has backing in the program.

Mastruserio is Vice President of Marketing for Proforma N&M Communications, based in Kentucky. He has operated the business in the Florida region for 15 years and has four decades of experience in the marketing and promotions industry.

He works to provide promotional and marketing needs for hotels and resorts, restaurants, nonprofits and local businesses in the Clearwater and Tampa Bay area.

“I’m running to bring a commonsense voice to the Council. To frame decisions through the lens of community. To keep our local government accountable to the people it represents and to ensure that we are financially responsible and chart a course that diversifies our local economy and protects our community,” Mastruserio said when he entered the race.

Former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, a Republican, is backing Mastruserio.

Cotton, meanwhile, is running with support from U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna and Pinellas County Commissioners Chris Latvala and Brian Scott, all Republicans.

Cotton’s father-in-law is David Allbritton, who serves on the City Council in Seat 4.  Cotton is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and streamlining city services.

Polls open for voting Tuesday at 7 a.m. A list of polling places is available on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website. The race shares the ballot with the Presidential Primary, as well as races for Clearwater Mayor and Seat 3 on City Council.

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].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704