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Hackworth plans run for Dunedin mayor; Commissioner Carson draws challenger

DUNEDIN — Former Mayor Bob Hackworth wants his old job back.

On Monday, he filed to run for mayor against his successor, Mayor Dave Eggers, in the Nov. 6 election.

Hackworth says he was prompted to run by what he sees as "City Hall's turn away from" transparency, responsible budgeting and sound policy decisions.

"I really am concerned about the dysfunction of our city government right now," Hackworth said Tuesday. "It's just not operating the way it's supposed to. And I have to lay that at the feet of the mayor."

When qualifying ended at noon Monday, one city commissioner was automatically re-elected and another drew an opponent.

Julie Scales, on the commission since March 2003, was automatically re-elected to a fourth term when no one filed to run against her. Noting that democracy "is based on the exchange of ideas ... in the marketplace," Scales said she had been prepared for a challenger. She had raised more than $11,000 in campaign contributions, records show.

"I'm pleased to be re-elected. I think that Dunedin is going through a lot of changes and there remain a lot of challenges. And I think my experience thus far will be an asset to the commission," said Scales, a former attorney for Pinellas County government who now serves as executive director of the Pinellas Community Foundation.

Political newcomer Heather Gracy will face off against incumbent Commissioner David Carson for Seat 3. Gracy, a longtime community volunteer and former investment firm legal analyst, opened her campaign account in April and had raised $12,950 as of June 30. That included $100 she loaned herself and a $250 contribution from the Dunedin Firefighters Association, which has endorsed her.

Carson, elected in March 2009 and nearing the end of his first term, had $18,590 in contributions. That included $10,000 that the Dunedin Pest Control co-owner loaned himself.

Hackworth, who owns an educational publishing firm with his family, previously served seven years on the City Commission, including one term as mayor. Hackworth declined to run for re-election after an unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in 2008. Eggers, a real estate agent who's served on the commission since 2003, became mayor in 2009.

As of June 30, Eggers' campaign account contained $850 — $500 of which he loaned himself. Hackworth must file his first financial report by Sept. 21.

November's election will be the first since residents approved a 2010 referendum to move voting from March and to extend city commissioners' terms from three to four years — permitting the city to lower costs and increase voter turnout by coinciding with the county, state and federal election cycle.

The city has budgeted $12,250 for this fall's election. On average, March elections have cost $53,000 to $55,000, according to city figures.

On the other hand, political watchers say, the changed timing means higher expenses for candidates, who now have to get the word out to a potentially larger pool of voters. About 7,000 voters turned out for Dunedin's last March election in 2009. Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections data show more than 19,000 Dunedin voters cast ballots during the November 2008 and November 2004 elections.

Commission seats won't be the only Dunedin-specific items on the November general election ballot.

Voters will also make decisions on a half-dozen referendum questions related to the city charter. Those include whether to institute commissioner term limits, increase the number of commission votes needed to hire and fire the city clerk, require city leaders to act more quickly on citizen petitions, and expand on the state's definition of criminal acts that would cause an elected official to be suspended or removed from office.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com, (727) 445-4153 or on Twitter @KeyonnaSummers. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Hackworth plans run for Dunedin mayor; Commissioner Carson draws challenger 07/31/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 7:41pm]
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