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Sometimes aligned, Largo commission Seat 1 candidates still find room for disagreement

LARGO — His campaign advertisements are glossy and in color, hers are black and white.

His campaign has a website and a Facebook page. Hers has neither.

He is 30, gay, and promises to bring a "new voice" to the Largo City Commission. She is 72, married for 48 years, and promises to "protect traditional community standards valued by residents and property owners."

Voters will make their choice for Seat 1 on the City Commission Tuesday, the last off-year election for Largo.

While incumbent Mary Gray Black and librarian Michael Smith appear, at face value, to offer two distinct choices, when it comes to issues the candidates aren't that far apart.

Smith says he wants to put an emphasis on public safety spending. Black says she wants to continue to provide "high quality municipal services."

Smith touts himself as fiscally conservative. Black was one of two commissioners to vote against a slight increase in Largo's tax rate this year.

Their alignment on certain issues hasn't prevented the candidates from disagreeing, though.

Smith has criticized Black for being too negative and uninformed at meetings, which he attributes in part to her refusal to meet one-on-one with City Manager Mac Craig or other city staff.

Black accused Smith of being deceptive, which he interpreted as a dig at him for not stating on his campaign literature that he is gay.

The other major difference between the two candidates is money. Smith has raised $15,561 to Black's $5,340, according to their campaign filings. Both numbers include about $4,000 of each candidate's own money.

Black, who has also served stints on the City Commission in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, is not concerned about the 3-to-1 difference in campaign funds.

"God has provided me with exactly what I need," she wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times.

This campaign has been different from her previous runs, Black said, because of a "negative side" she attributes to Smith's supporters, but not to Smith.

"I would like to think that my opponent is not responsible for what his supporters do," Black wrote. "He has been very pleasant to me the few times I have been in his presence."

One of those few times was at a Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce event in October, when Black took the microphone first and said Smith had been deceptive.

Black didn't specify what she meant, but Smith felt Black was referring to his homosexuality and a mail campaign flier that included a picture of him with a woman and her child. Smith said the picture was not intended to imply the woman and child were his family, just that he cared about families.

Negativity aside, both candidates say they're optimistic heading into Tuesday. The winner will get a salary of $13,125.46, and be the last commissioner to serve a three-year term, as Largo switches to four-year terms and even-year elections after this year.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday, and Smith and Black both plan to campaign until the early evening. Black will watch the results at the Supervisor of Elections Office, while Smith will host a party at Louie's Grill & Sports Bar at 7924 Ulmerton Road.

"My campaign is going very well," Black wrote. "I know that God is in command and I feel really good."

"I feel pretty positive, but you don't want to let off the throttle," Smith said. "We did the best we can, and we'll see what the voters have to say Tuesday."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@sptimes.com.

. fast facts

Largo elections

Polling places for Largo's election will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday. Check votepinellas.com or call (727) 464-8683 to find out which of the following polling places is where you should vote:

•Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road

•Highland Recreation Complex, 400 Highland Ave.

•Historic Largo Feed Store, 295 Central Park Drive

•Hope Presbyterian Church, 1698 S Belcher Road

•Fairway Village Mobile Home Park, 1100 S Belcher Road

•Fire Station 40, 2990 Whitney Road

Sometimes aligned, Largo commission Seat 1 candidates still find room for disagreement 11/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 4, 2011 1:04pm]
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