Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Justin Bean leads District 6 council race; Driscoll, Blackmon trail

ST. PETERSBURG — Justin Bean will advance to the Nov. 7 runoff for the City Council's District 6 seat. But who will join him in that race?

Gina Driscoll led Robert Blackmon by just four votes in Tuesday night's primary. But a handful of votes still need to be reviewed. The narrow margin could trigger a recount of the race, said Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections spokesman Jason Latimer.

Bean earned 1,442 votes, or 21 percent. Driscoll had 1,215 votes or 17.81 percent. Blackmon followed that with 1,211 votes, or 17.75 percent of the vote.

MEET JUSTIN BEAN: St. Petersburg council candidate Justin Bean has ideas about Rays, Trop and pier

Bean pointed to his community service and business experience as reasons to elect him to the District 6 seat. He was a volunteer consultant on a competing proposal to redevelop Tropicana Field and founded a nonprofit to rehabilitate Williams Park, long known for transients and drug deals.

His experience "and approach to roll up" his sleeves and get things done resonated with voters, he said.

"The way things are in politics, people really appreciate leading by example," he said. "There are a lot of issues we need to focus on ... we shouldn't be guessing every time it rains about sewage."

The top three vote getters also happened to raise the most money.

Blackmon, 28, a millionaire property investor, put $15,000 of his own money into the race and raised a total of $30,933. Bean raised $26,510 to Driscoll's $27,751.

MEET GINA DRISCOLL: Council candidate Gina Driscoll vows to improve affordable housing in St. Pete

Driscoll was endorsed by outgoing City Council member Karl Nurse, who currently represents the district, but is term-limited. Driscoll has referred to Nurse as her mentor and, like him, will focus on affordable housing, "particularly south of downtown," in the area of Midtown.

The president of the influential Downtown Neighborhood Association, she has vowed to work with whoever is elected mayor. The sales manager for Hampton Inn & Suites St. Petersburg Downtown doesn't believe taxpayers should pay for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays and supports Kriseman's plans to ask Pinellas County to reallocate an extra $14 million in Tax Increment Financing, or TIF funds, to the Pier District and downtown transportation and parking.

ROBERT BLACKMON: Council hopeful Robert Blackmon fears for St. Pete's environment, infrastructure

Blackmon had garnered unwanted attention when the New York Post reported that he is dating Sydney Simpson, the daughter of O.J. Simpson. He denied the report.

He snagged endorsements from City Council member Jim Kennedy, former City Council member Larry Williams and Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority chairman James Holton.

Blackmon, who says he is concerned about the environment, wants to see Salt Creek, Bartlett Lake and Spa Beach, all in District 6, cleaned up and promoted as part of an eco-tourism program. He renovated a four-unit building in Midtown and has said that renovating the city's old housing stock could help to build up the supply of affordable housing.

Also in the crowded primary was Maria Scruggs, who ran fourth and is president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP. She ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2001. Other candidates were Eritha "Akile" Cainion, fielded by the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement; Corey Givens Jr. and James "Jim" Jackson, who have both run for Pinellas County School Board; and James Scott, a former student body president of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

District 6, stretches from southern neighborhoods, which include the predominantly African-American and poor Midtown community, through parts of downtown and a portion of Old Northeast. When the district's boundaries were redrawn in 2013, 51 percent of its residents were minorities. But recent downtown growth has decreased that percentage, Nurse said.

Until Nurse was appointed to fill the vacant council seat in 2008 — he was elected twice since then — the district had for decades been represented by black leaders. Whoever represents the district will have to attend to the concerns of a diverse district that includes, the poor who live in Midtown and have no supermarket of their own and the prosperous in the city's booming downtown.

Times staff writers Josh Solomon and Allison Graves contributed to this report. Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

     
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