Monday, June 18, 2018

Pinellas School Board candidate calls opponent’s district address ‘disingenuous’

In an email blast on Tuesday, Pinellas County School Board candidate Matt Stewart accused his opponent, Lorena Grizzle, of "misleading voters."

He called Grizzle's recent change of address into question and said voters would "see it for what it is."

Property records show Grizzle claims a homestead exemption in Largo, outside the boundaries of District 6, in which she and Stewart both hope to claim a seat. When Grizzle filed paperwork to run for the District 6 seat in April, she was still living outside of it.

About a month ago, that changed. Her address was updated to a home in Seminole, inside district bounds.

"It is disingenuous for someone to simply change their address on file to qualify for a district that they do not reside in," Stewart said in his news release. "As a resident of this district, I do not appreciate someone simply changing their address in an attempt to represent me. I do not think the voters will be deceived by this action and will see it for what it is."

His attack left Grizzle dumbfounded.

"I don't understand what kind of cheap trick this is," she said. "Believe me, I would never have run for a race if I wasn't living in the district."

She explained: She's owned two homes, in both Largo and Seminole, since the mid-2000s. She lived in the Seminole home from 2008 to 2014, declaring a homestead exemption there, while teaching at nearby Bauder Elementary, then at Rawlings Elementary.

"That's nine years of working in the district," she said. "It's not like I'm some stranger that moved here from the middle of the state to run."

In 2014, Grizzle moved to her Largo home, which she said was underwater, and began renting out the Seminole duplex. That's when she switched her homestead exemption to Largo. It remains in place today.

She said she moved back to the Seminole address, inside District 6 boundaries, about a month ago. For Stewart to call that into question, she said, was petty.

Stewart said that if Grizzle wanted to run for the School Board, she should have gone after the two at-large seats, which don't have geographical boundaries.

On Tuesday afternoon, Grizzle was headed to a campaign fundraiser. She said she hadn't reversed the homestead location from Largo back to Seminole because the change wouldn't take effect until January, anyway.

But she said she'd go finish the paperwork ASAP.

"I'll go change that in the morning," she said.

Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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