Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Democrats and the Pinellas County Commission: A long legacy of losing

There are two ways of looking at this story, so choose whichever you prefer:

Either Pinellas County has employed some of the greatest County Commissioners in the Western Hemisphere, or local Republicans are a remarkably loyal crowd.

Too simplistic? Sure, I'll give you that.

But good gosh, the numbers are remarkable.

By my count, Democrats have failed to win — or even show up — in the last 30 elections against a Republican incumbent on the Pinellas County Commission.

Republicans have retired, run for other offices, been arrested on cocaine charges and even been beaten in their own primaries, but a sitting Republican commissioner has not been toppled by a Democrat since Gabe Cazares beat Joe Wornicki in 1980.

To put that in perspective, not even the expansion Buccaneers lost that many in a row, and they were the worst football team the NFL has known.

So why is this relevant now?

Because former state legislators Janet Long and Charlie Justice have announced plans to run against Republican incumbents.

And what might they say about this history staring them dead in the face?

"I'd say it's about damn time, don't you think?" Long said Wednesday afternoon. "We'll see if the public agrees.''

To be fair, all of those past elections should be considered on their own merits. It hasn't simply been a matter of getting behind the curtain and punching partisan tickets.

Some of those Republican incumbents were excellent public servants, and some of the Democratic challengers were pretty weak candidates.

On the other hand, a 32-year losing streak?

"Elected officials in this county have not been extremists for either party,'' Justice said. "Historically, we've elected pretty mainstream candidates.''

And, for the most part, those mainstream candidates have been Republicans. They have held a majority on the commission since 1968, and Democrats have been limited to either one or no seats in 26 of the last 36 years.

Granted, Democrats have usually held onto their jobs once they've arrived, but that first step that has required extra assistance. Two Democrats have held seats since 1985, and both reached office in special circumstances.

Calvin Harris was appointed by the governor when a seat opened in 1997, and Ken Welch was elected in 2000 when the commission expanded and a new seat was created.

Which brings us back to Justice and Long. What makes them think they can go where no recent Democrat has gone?

For one thing, there's name recognition. Long spent four years on the Seminole City Council and four years in the state House. Justice served three terms in the state House and another one in the Florida Senate.

Pinellas County voters have also been skewing more Democratic in recent years. According to Supervisor of Elections figures, registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans by roughly 3,000 voters in the county.

Finally, you can bet Long and Justice will use the decision to stop fluoridating the water to portray the current commission as veering further right than the typical Pinellas resident.

Will it work better than previous Democratic challenges?

It can't be any worse.

John Romano can be reached at romano@tampabay.com.

Democrats and the Pinellas County Commission: A long legacy of losing 04/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 9:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]