|The results of Tuesday's elections
Incumbent Bill Mischler was re-elected with 3,174 votes over Jan Macumber's 545 votes.
Seat 3 incumbent Rick Butler defeated Marshall Cook 2,967 to 601
|Source: Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections|
PINELLAS PARK — If you want to win a seat on the City Council here, you have to push a positive message and talk about your love for the city.
That's something the three top vote-getters in Tuesday's election did very well, said Jerry Garner, who helped winner Jerry Mullins squeak out a 111-vote victory over former state Rep. Mary Brennan.
The third-place finisher, Patti Johnson, was only 32 votes behind Brennan. The other three candidates in the race, Ed Kosinski, Randy Heine and Trish Macfarlane, trailed far behind. The closest, Kosinski, was 473 votes behind Johnson.
"I was really surprised to see how close it was," Garner said Thursday.
The Mullins campaign knew from the outset that Brennan would be a heavy contender. Brennan is well known and well liked in the community. While serving in the Legislature, she helped pass laws to benefit the elderly, and people remember that, Garner said. She also had the support of Patricia Bailey-Snook, the longtime council member who was vacating the seat.
Campaign strategists first realized Johnson was a threat when they heard her speak during a candidates forum. Johnson did things right, Garner said. She talked of her love for Pinellas Park and of finding ways to help the city face the future, particularly in view of budget issues from the fallout of Amendment 1 and the poor economy.
A couple of things gave Mullins the edge that pushed him to victory, Garner said. One was his long-standing, hands-on history of helping groups in the community, from Little League to the Thunderbirds to People Helping People. The other was the decision to own up to a problematic past before anyone else brought it up and to spin it as youthful mistakes amply corrected.
"I think that that helped him, gave him credibility," Garner said.
Mullins agreed that those things helped put him over the top. The decision to be upfront with arrests and a misdemeanor DUI conviction was his, he said. Mullins said that while not proud of his background, he did not want people to think he was lying to them by hiding it. So he put the story on his Web site and he did not duck media questions.
But Mullins' victory was no landslide. He got 27.4 percent of the vote, which meant almost three-quarters of those voting wanted someone else. And the vast majority of the city's registered voters gave the election a pass. But with six candidates, it's unlikely anyone could have gotten more than 50 percent. And turnout for municipal elections is notoriously low. But the fact is, those 111 set Pinellas Park's course for the next four years.