Pinellas Park, Lealman leaders back ‘devoted advocate’ Charlie Justice for re-election to Pinellas County Commission

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'Charlie has made a career of getting up every day with the goal of doing the right thing — he's worked to make schools better, elections more fair, our bay ways cleaner and our neighborhoods more safe and he has always been a great ally to law enforcement.'

Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice has been a stalwart supporter of initiatives in Pinellas Park and Lealman, and now his dedication is paying off.

Members of the Pinellas Park City Council and Lealman Independent Fire District Commission are endorsing his re-election campaign as he faces a credible challenge from Republican Vince Nowicki.

Backers include Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury, City Council members Ricky Butler, Tim Caddell and Patti Gail Reed, and retired Police Chief Michael Haworth. Meanwhile, Lealman Fire District Commissioners Kathleen Quinn Litton and Jorge Mercado are also supporting Justice.

Bradbury attributed her support to Justice’s leadership on building the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch alongside veteran Mike Delancey.

Reed described Justice as a “tireless” advocate for local businesses and “the well being of our community.”

Justice also received praise from Butler for being “a great friend to the city of Pinellas Park” and focusing on “people over politics.”

“Charlie has made a career of getting up every day with the goal of doing the right thing — he’s worked to make schools better, elections more fair, our bay ways cleaner and our neighborhoods more safe and he has always been a great ally to law enforcement. Charlie is also a huge friend to our military veterans,” added Haworth.

Justice is facing a tough re-election. Nowicki has strong backing from the local GOP establishment, and he’s so far outraising the incumbent, with nearly $55,000 raised to Justice’s nearly $33,000. While it’s worth noting that Justice entered the race later than Nowicki, Nowicki outraised him in the first quarter of 2023 while both were actively running for the entire period, which spans January through March.

Republicans also now hold a more than 30,000 voter registration advantage in Pinellas County, with 236,789 voters to just 204,757 Democrats. That’s a sizable lead, especially considering that Republicans historically turn out in greater numbers than Democrats. While Justice’s seat includes parts of west St. Pete and Lealman, it is elected countywide.

The GOP voter registration advantage also means no-party or third-party voters will play a big role in election outcomes next year. There are nearly 166,000 voters not affiliated with a major party.

The endorsements follow nods from five members of St. Petersburg City Council last month. He previously rolled out a bipartisan list of endorsements that included former colleagues on the County Commission Susan Latvala and Karen Seel, both Republicans.

Democrats lost ground on the County Commission in the 2022 cycle, with Gerard losing her seat and Republicans claiming a 4-3 advantage. They are now looking to expand that advantage, with Republicans running against Justice and in the open race for countywide District 1, which Democrat Janet Long is vacating.

It’s widely believed that if the GOP picks up either seat, it will be next to impossible for Democrats to win back their advantage in less than 10 years. If they manage to keep both seats blue, party operatives are hopeful the pendulum will swing back in Democrats’ favor within the next two or three election cycles.

Justice narrowly held onto his seat the last time he was up for re-election, with barely more than 50% of the vote against GOP challenger Tammy Sue Vasquez.

Justice’s campaign touts his work protecting beaches and local estuaries, as well as preserving green space, investing in infrastructure, and making public safety a priority. He said there has been a 59% decline in serious crime countywide.

Justice has also secured an endorsement earlier this month from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. He also has support from St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch, a former colleague on the Commission and a close friend, and former St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

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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