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East Lake forum a brief introduction to north county races



Candidates for everything from Congress to Pinellas County Commission spoke at a forum in East Lake on Tuesday night. But with 14 candidates on the agenda, no one got to say very much.

Hosted by the Council of North County Neighborhoods, the forum focused on races in the northern part of Pinellas County, including U.S. Congressional District 12, state Senate District 20, and State House District 65.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is running against Democrat Scott Swope, attended. As did Republican County Commissioners Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield, who are being challenged by Democrats Charlie Justice and Janet Long, respectively.

Volunteers, many of them wearing the candidates’ campaign t-shirts, dominated the audience assembled in the East Lake Methodist Church.

Knowing their time was short, candidates spoke quickly and stuck to their talking points.

Speaking one day before the County Commission votes on tax rate increases to pay for increased Medicaid costs, State Senator Jack Latvala defended the state legislature’s decision to bill counties for years of unpaid Medicaid bills.

"My principle is: if somebody owes money, somebody needs to pay money. There are no free services in government," he said.

In Pinellas, commissioners have already given their preliminary approval to a tax rate increase to pay for Medicaid and will take their final vote on Tuesday night. In notes tucked into residents' tax notices this year, the commission blamed lawmakers in Tallahassee for passing the cost down to them.


--Anna M. Phillips, Times staff writer

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