ST. PETERSBURG — City Council Chairman Karl Nurse may have the advantage of name recognition, a stack of endorsements and an enviable campaign chest in the District 6 race, but none of that fazes Trevor Mallory.
Mallory, a 41-year-old political novice, says he is working to unseat Nurse because the incumbent has not paid enough attention to the district, which covers large portions of downtown, Midtown and neighborhoods such as the Old Southeast, Tropical Shores, Coquina Key and a portion of Lakewood Estates.
"I understand that there are some great things that are being done by Mr. Nurse that benefit the city, but I am concerned with District 6," said Mallory, a small-business owner and nightclub manager. "It's all about community safety and to better our education programs."
Nurse, 58, who owns a printing company, disputes Mallory's notion that he doesn't give his district enough focus.
While St. Petersburg's new foreclosure registry, which he pushed, applies citywide, most of the properties affected are in Midtown, Nurse said. Additionally, he said, the city's Rebates for Residential Rehabs and lien release programs, along with the proposed local hiring ordinance, all will be especially beneficial to District 6.
"When you change the rules, you change them across the city, but the greatest positive impact is in Midtown and Childs Park," Nurse said.
Nurse's other challenger in the Aug. 27 primary is Sharon Russ, 52, though she has been mostly absent in the race.
Mallory thinks Nurse is behind an admonition he got from City Clerk Eva Andujar for flouting Florida statutes in his campaign material by describing himself as "a Democratic candidate." Florida law forbids candidates for nonpartisan office from stating a political party affiliation in their advertisements or campaigning on party affiliation.
Mallory said he wants to increase job opportunities in the area. Residents, he added, must first clean up their community and build trust with police to get their assistance.
"That's my definition of community policing," he said.
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Mallory has had his own problems with the law. The most recent included an arrest for driving with a suspended license in Leon County in 2004. He was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to 20 days in jail. As the manager of the former Scene Premium Nightclub, he was arrested in February after a police report said two 19-year-old men were seen leaving the club intoxicated. The state attorney declined to prosecute the underage drinking charge. Mallory now manages Onyx, a new club at the same location.
Mallory thinks the way he has handled his legal history reflects positively on his character.
"I didn't cover up anything. I didn't get any of my background sealed," he said. "Everything is disclosed, and that's what you're going to get with me as a city councilman, an honest character."
Russ also has had brushes with the law. In 1995, she was arrested in Tallahassee for driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest after police said she struggled with the officer. Adjudication of guilt was withheld in that case. She also was arrested in 1998 on a charge of aggravated assault that was later dropped.
Russ, who until recently did not respond to emails or telephone calls, directed the Tampa Bay Times to her campaign manager, the Rev. Paul Partridge.
"Sharon wants to help the poor people in her district," Partridge said, predicting that the U.S. Department of Justice will come to the city soon to investigate how grants meant for the needy have been spent.
Partridge said that Russ, who is against abortion, also wants to teach teenage girls not to become pregnant and hopes to make St. Petersburg the top tourist attraction in the nation.
Essentially, though, the contest appears to be between Nurse and Mallory. Underdog Mallory thinks it's no coincidence that both the Times and city clerk brought up problems with his campaign material just days after he and Nurse discussed the matter privately.
"If that is his tactic, to stop my momentum, I welcome that with open arms," he said.
And speaking of breaking rules, Nurse should look at his own signs, which use the word "elect" instead of "re-elect," Mallory said.
"Be honest with the people and let them know you're already in," he said.
Nurse said he is simply recycling signs from a previous campaign. The city clerk said she's not aware of any requirement that an incumbent must use the word "re-elect."
While Mallory concedes that Nurse has name recognition, he touts his own "community recognition."
"So, let's see how it goes and let the best man win," he said.
Nurse is "encouraged" by the endorsements he's received but said he's not overly confident.
"I think the greatest issue that any incumbent has in this environment is one, you're an incumbent, and two, probably about 40 percent of the people who are likely to be voting don't know who I am," he said.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.