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Expect a rematch in Largo mayor's race

Once again, Bob Jackson says he plans to face off against Pat Gerard for the mayor's seat.

But there's one major difference this time, noted Gerard, who has been Largo's mayor since she defeated then-Mayor Jackson in a close race in March 2006.

She's the incumbent.

Gerard qualified for the Nov. 3 election almost two weeks ago.

Jackson hasn't picked up cards or opened a campaign account. But contacted by phone while on vacation in Vermont, Jackson said he plans to begin campaigning when he returns at the end of the month.

The qualifying period ends Aug. 13.

"I'll just go out and tell people I want to serve, and I thought I did a good job while I was there," said Jackson, 76.

Jackson, who was on the City Commission for three decades, was Largo's mayor for two terms.

After Gerard won the seat, he took time to enjoy himself, he said. But he still studied city budgets every year and said he was disappointed commissioners increased the property tax rate last year.

Now, he's ready to get involved again.

Both talked about the economic challenges the city faces.

"We're not going to be able to give (employees) the raises and all things they've got in the past," Jackson said.

Gerard, 59, said one of her goals will be "weathering the economic downturn without devastating our service array."

Jackson said he opposes the city's plan to redevelop the West Bay Drive area, which would allow buildings up to eight stories in some parts of the district.

People who live in Largo don't want it "to be a big city," he said.

"Bob doesn't like plans," said Gerard, who supports this one.

"The whole idea of having a plan is to have it developed the way you want it, not just willy-nilly."

• • •

Two other Largo seats are up for election this year, Seat 3 and Seat 4.

Curtis Holmes, a licensed insurance agent who was defeated by Commissioner Woody Brown two years ago, plans to challenge Commissioner Rodney Woods for Seat 3.

Though Holmes, 59, and Woods, 52, haven't been political foes in the past, Holmes has focused much of his criticism on Woods over the past few years.

Last year, Holmes filed a complaint against Woods with the Florida Commission on Ethics, claiming Woods had acted inappropriately by supporting construction of a city memorial to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and raising money for it. The commission dismissed the complaint, saying it found nothing to support the allegation.

Incumbent Commissioner Gigi Arntzen, 60, who has qualified for Seat 4, is currently unopposed.

John Mandujano, who had planned to challenge Arntzen, says he's dropping out because he recently learned he has a problem with his heart.

Mandujano, 54, who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Commissioner Harriet Crozier in 2007, said he scheduled an appointment with a cardiac specialist and plans to have a battery of tests.

"I'll be okay if I cut out stress, exercise more and lose 20 pounds," he said doctors told him. Otherwise, he may be looking at heart surgery, he said.

His announcement comes less than two weeks after City Clerk Diane Bruner filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission against him. The complaint, dated June 25, said that he violated the state election code because he never filed his final treasurer report from the 2007 election.

Documents in Bruner's complaint show that Bruner notified Mandujano a few weeks before the report was due and a few days after it was due in February 2008.

"It was my fault," Mandujano said. "I forgot to file it."

Bruner informed Mandujano that fines for the late report are set at $50 per day for each late day, but are not to exceed 25 percent of total receipts or expenditures. The amount of the fine would be determined after his report was received.

"I'm going to have to pay a fine," Mandujano said. "In the grand scheme of things, it's not so bad."

Fast facts

The races

The city election qualifying period runs from June 15 to Aug. 13. Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Gigi Arntzen have qualified for Largo's Nov. 3 election.

Mayor's race

Former Mayor Bob Jackson, left, says he plans to challenge Pat Gerard, right.

Seat 3

Insurance agent Curtis Holmes, left, takes on Commissioner Rodney Woods, right.

Seat 4

Gigi Arntzen is currently unopposed.

Future elections

City leaders are exploring various changes to the qualifying rules for future elections. At 60 days, Largo's qualifying period is longer than periods for all other cities in Pinellas County. Some commissioners are proposing a change to the city's charter that would set the qualifying period to 15 days and remove other qualifying details from the charter, so they can by outlined in the city code instead.

Expect a rematch in Largo mayor's race 07/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 11, 2009 4:31am]
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