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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jamie Bennett's council seat will be on St. Petersburg ballot



ST. PETERSBURG-- Well, that was quick.

With little discussion, the City Council approved a temporary ordinance this morning that would allow the District 5 seat to be filled by voters this fall if council member Jamie Bennett resigns to runs for mayor. Bennett has already submitted a resignation letter, but it's not effective till Dec. 30.

Only one resident spoke during the public hearing. "It's a gimmick," protested Gonzales Ortez.

The District 5 seat will now join four other council districts on the ballot this fall. Candidates must qualify by July to participate in the September primary.

The City Council passed a similar temporary ordinance when council member Larry Williams ran for mayor in 2001.

Under the city charter, Bennett's seat would have been filled by a council appointment after Bennett resigned.

What no one mentioned during today's meeting is that the extra legal maneuvering was necessary because Bennett wants to resign after his mayoral campaign is over. That's legal under the state resign-to-run law.

Under the charter, voters would be able to elect someone to the District 5 seat if Bennett had opted to resign by May 30. In that scenario, the council would appoint someone and that person would serve until the newly elected council member took office in January.

The council also discussed Thursday adding a charter amendment to the November ballot that would allow voters to pick the successors of future council members who resign to run for office during an election year.

The District 5 election could be one of the most competitive council races this year because it will not include an incumbent.

Social worker Steve Kornell has already filed to run for the seat and set up a Web site to reach out to voters.

Will Michaels, vice president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations and president of St. Petersburg Preservation, has said he is considering running for the District 5 seat.

-- Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:44am]


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