Monday, May 21, 2018
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Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.

Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited finishing her City Council term through 2020 given the various initiatives Clearwater is implementing over the next several years, like its $55 million waterfront redevelopment.

"I feel compelled to dedicate my full time and attention to continuing to passionately represent Clearwater and its citizens" she said.

Caudell announced her campaign for County Commission in June and had so far raised $76,322 to Gerard’s $121,192, according to campaign finance reports. As a Republican, her candidacy had the potential to flip the political makeup of the commission.

The seven-member commission achieved its first Democratic majority since the 1960s when Gerard was elected in 2014.

But with Caudell’s exit Monday, Gerard is now running unopposed. Official qualifying for the commission begins June 18.

District 4 Republican Commissioner Dave Eggers is also running for re-election so far unchallenged.

Democrat Amy Kedron, a former University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor of business law and entrepreneurship, announced her candidacy for District 6 on May 1 in a Republican-heavy race.

For the seat being vacated by Republican John Morroni, Kedron will face: state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena; and Barb Haselden, a St. Petersburg resident who led the No Tax for Tracks group that helped defeat the Greenlight Pinellas transportation sales tax.

At a council meeting in April, Caudell danced around the question of her commission candidacy when Mayor George Cretekos questioned the wisdom of appointing her to Pinellas Suncoast Transportation Authority Board of Directors if she was "only going to be with us until November."

After the meeting, when she was also given the annual appointment of vice mayor by her colleagues, Caudell clarified she was still "absolutely" running.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Friction breaks out over Clearwater Council member’s dual role as County Commission candidate

But on Monday, Caudell, who has served on the council since 2012, said she wants to lean in to her passion for transportation issues during the rest of her term. She said she also felt a need to stay on the council to help guide the city as it works to redevelop its struggling downtown and implement lingering street and capital projects.

The city is also facing a high-profile election in 2020 when three council seats, including the mayor, are up for grabs and longtime City Manager Bill Horne and City Attorney Pam Akin are planning to retire.

Earlier this month, a group of downtown business advocates led an effort pushing the council to consider putting a question on the Nov. 6 ballot about changing the government from a council-manager system to a strong mayor.

The council directed staff to form a committee to clarify details of how the strong mayor system would operate. The committee is charged with helping to write an ordinance that would go before the council this summer before a question could be added to the Nov. 6 ballot.

With the mayoral election on the horizon, under either structure, Caudell on Monday wouldn’t say whether she was hedging for that race instead.

"I don’t have a crystal ball," Caudell said. "It’s too far out."

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

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