Ken Welch wins primary in quest for fourth County Commission term

First elected in 2000, the incumbent is well-positioned for another victory in November.
Published August 14 2012
Updated August 15 2012

Pinellas County Democrats on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to give Ken Welch a chance for a fourth term on the County Commission.

Welch took 69 percent of the vote, beating his Democratic opponent, Maria L. Scruggs.

Welch, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, has served on the County Commission since 2000, when he left his job as a Florida Power Corp. accountant to run for office, beating a Republican opponent in a district that is largely Democratic. Since then, voters in his southern Pinellas district have re-elected him twice, and he is well positioned for another win in November.

"I've worked hard to be a commissioner who is visible not just every four years, but every day of the year," Welch said.

As of last week, Welch had raised more than $49,000, more than five times the haul of the Republican newcomer he faces in November, William "Buck" Walz, an operations manager for Carroll's Building Materials.

Scruggs, a corrections supervisor in Orlando who lives in St. Petersburg, has tried for various offices in the city and county in the last few years. She ran for City Council in 2005, for the County Commission in 2004, and in 2001 she ran for mayor.

Scruggs, though, isn't giving up on this one.

In June, she and two other Pinellas residents sued four sitting county commissioners — including Welch — in an effort to enforce a 1996 vote that set two four-year term limits. Florida's Supreme Court has ruled on the issue twice, once rejecting term limits, and a second time upholding them, and it remains unclear how these decisions apply to current commissioners.

"The obvious issue is that Mr. Welch is not eligible to be on the ballot in the first place," she said. "Of course, we won't be conceding."

If her lawsuit succeeds in court, Welch could be booted from office.

Welch has toyed with the idea of running for mayor of St. Petersburg. But he has excused himself from the 2014 race, when Mayor Bill Foster's term expires.

Times staff writer John Woodrow Cox contributed to this report.