Pinellas, Central Pasco Realtors are sweet on Cookie Kennedy
Cookie Kennedy is ready for a closer look at regulations on short-term vacation rentals.

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It's a big grab for Kennedy, who is facing a difficult election against Chris Scherer.

The Pinellas and Central Pasco Realtor Organizations are endorsing Cookie Kennedy for Pinellas County Commission as she seeks to preserve a seat for Democrats this cycle.

Kennedy is running for the District 1 seat currently held by Janet Long, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election. She faces Republican Chris Scherer in the open race and faces what is expected to be a close race between the two.

The Realtor endorsement is arguably one of the most important nods Kennedy could earn in the contest. While the Realtor organizations are nonpartisan, they tend to favor conservative candidates typically more aligned with a pro-business, pro-property rights platform.

But Kennedy is unique. As the former Mayor of Indian Rocks Beach, Kennedy has long been a strong voice in the battle over short-term vacation rentals, attempting to strike a balance between constituents worried about potential disruptions from vacationers partying in residential neighborhoods, and private property rights for owners seeking to earn extra income on their homes.

“Pinellas residents know who they’re getting with Cookie Kennedy. She has a long and distinguished record of commitment and service to our community. We are proud to support her campaign for Pinellas County Commission and look forward to working with her for years to come,” said Pinellas Realtor Organization President Tom Steck. 

Kennedy, as of mid-June, has raised more than $115,000 for the race, a number that in past political cycles would have been impressive. But she’s up against an even better-funded candidate in Scherer, who has outraised Kennedy by more than $20,000 in his campaign alone. An affiliated political committee, Friends of Chris Scherer, has raised nearly $96,000, bringing Kennedy’s fundraising deficit in the race to more than six figures.

Kennedy is also up against a voter registration disadvantage. There are nearly 236,000 GOP voters in the county, compared to less than 203,000 Democrats. District 1 is an at large seat, meaning it is elected countywide. Neither candidate faces a Primary opponent.

Where Kennedy has room to succeed likely lies in independent voters, with nearly 165,000 registered without party affiliation.

So while Kennedy lags in fundraising and faces a voter registration hurdle, she’s been doing well in the endorsement race to show bipartisan support.

Endorsements for Kennedy so far include a bipartisan slate of current and former elected officials and community advocates. That includes Belleair Beach Mayor Dave Gattis; Indian Shores Mayor Diantha Schear; Dunedin City Commissioner Jeff Gow; Indian Shores City Commissioner Bill Smith; Indian Rocks Beach City Commissioners John Bigelow and Jude Bond; Indian Rocks Beach Vice Mayor Janet Wilson; Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Denise Houseberg; North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, Redington Shores Mayor Lisa Hendrickson; Seminole Vice Mayor Trish Springer; Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice; Pinellas County School Board member Caprice Edmond; St. Pete City Council member Gina Driscoll and more.

Scherer, meanwhile, has rounded up support almost exclusively from conservatives, including Sens. Ed Hooper and Nick DiCeglie; Pinellas County Commissioners Chris Latvala, Brian Scott and Dave Eggers; former Florida Education Commissioner and former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran; former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, former Sen. Jeff Brandes; and more. Scherer also has support from the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

The GOP has been eyeing Long’s seat for years, coming within striking distance four years ago, but narrowly missing the chance to flip her seat. Long defeated Republican former Rep. Larry Ahern in that race by just 1 percentage point.

They’re also eyeing Justice’s seat, with a bid by Republican Vincent Nowicki to unseat the longtime Democratic Commissioner.

Republicans recently flipped the political makeup of the Pinellas County Commission in the 2022 Midterms and are looking to grow that advantage with a Scherer victory this year.

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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