Vincent Nowicki draws last-minute Primary challenge as he seeks to oust longtime Commissioner Charlie Justice

David Leatherwood is a gay conservative activist who often speaks out against pride events or symbols.

A second Republican has joined the race for Pinellas County Commission in District 3 in hopes of challenging incumbent Democrat Charlie Justice, who has not drawn a challenger.

David Scott Leatherwood has filed and qualified for the race, a late start that leaves him at a big funding deficit behind Vincent Nowicki, who as of the end of March has raised nearly $55,000 for the race. Justice has raised nearly $33,000, though officially entered the race three months after Nowicki.

Leatherwood is an influencer known for his conservative activism, particularly on his Instagram account, where he goes by the name “Brokeback Patriot.”

That’s a nod to the film “Brokeback Mountain” about two closeted gay men living in Montana at a time and in a place where they would not be accepted. Leatherwood is a gay Republican. His Instagram account features several posts criticizing gay activism, including use of the rainbow flag to celebrate gay pride.

Leatherwood was featured in a Tampa Bay Times article two years ago about MAGA influencers flocking to Florida to chase “political clout and connections.”

One of his most recent posts attacks transgender policy, making the argument that children should not be allowed to “choose their gender” with a video of a young boy offered the choice between $10,000 in cash or two Oreos. The boy chooses the Oreos.

Another post shows a pride flag hanging at a McDonald’s with the caption “America is over and we deserve to be nuked.” Another post shows an animation of a devil sewing a pride flag, with the caption “June is coming.”

Leatherwood’s past has been troubled, with a DUI conviction in Hillsborough County in 2011 for an offense that occurred in late 2010, and a series of domestic troubles between Leatherwood and a past partner which, in one occasion, resulted in being trespassed from all Disney properties in 2016. In that situation — the case was ultimately dropped — Leatherwood’s former partner accused him of striking him in the head with a closed fist at the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza near Orlando.

Leatherwood’s entrance into the race may be good news for Justice, forcing Nowicki to now use resources to battle through a Primary.

Nowicki briefly ran for St. Pete Mayor in 2021, but withdrew from the race. The conservative activist is perhaps best known for his efforts to hold local elected officials accountable. His personal investigation into former St. Pete City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman led to her resignation in September. Nowicki hired a private investigator, who uncovered Wheeler-Bowman was residing outside her district.

He also filed an unsuccessful ethics complaint against Mayor Ken Welch over his appointment of James Corbett as City Development Administrator.

Nowicki said he has also filed a complaint with the IRS against Allendale United Methodist Church, a congregation led by progressive activist Rev. Andy Oliver, arguing the church is involved in political campaigns and political fundraising, which would make it ineligible for tax exemption as a religious institution.

He’ll have the advantage in the GOP Primary, with several local conservatives already backing him, including Rep. Kim Berfield; Redington Shores Mayor Lisa Hendrickson; St. Pete Beach Mayor Adrian Petrila; Redington Beach Mayor David Will; Belleair Beach Mayor Dave Gattis; Madeira Beach Mayor Jim Rostek; Treasure Island City Commissioner John Doctor; Gulfport City Council member Christine Brown; Gulfport City Council member Ian O’Hara; Redington Beach City Commissioner Rich Cariello; and former Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks.

Nowicki has also secured endorsements from former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker; former St. Pete City Council member Robert Blackmon; School Board member Stephanie Meyer; School Board member Dawn Peters; Largo City Commissioner Curtis Holmes; Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters; and former St. Pete Council member and School Board Member Bill Dudley.

Republicans now hold a nearly 20,000 voter registration advantage in Pinellas County, with 245,003 voters to just 226,063 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 193,000 voters not affiliated with a major party.

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 63% decline in serious crime countywide, data confirmed in Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office data.

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].


  • Michael K

    June 14, 2024 at 1:33 pm

    What a joke. Pathetic joke. Wonder who is financing his run?

  • Deplorable Pinellas

    June 14, 2024 at 11:28 pm

    No surprise Florida Politics ran a smear against a gay Republican. Janelle couldn’t even come up with new material, she just verbatim copied her last article on Nowicki and added in 2 fluff paragraphs attacking David that I’m pretty sure were written by someone else.

Comments are closed.


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