ST. PETE BEACH — Voters in District 1, the northern end of the city, must go to the polls once again next month to pick a commissioner.
The reason: None of the three candidates who competed for the post last week managed to get the 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a runoff election.
According to final election results, Lorraine Huhn, 81, garnered the most votes with 317 (39.77 percent) of the 797 votes cast.
Incumbent Al Halpern, 65, got 249 votes (31.24 percent).
Candidate Deb Edney, 61, received 231 votes (28.98 percent).
Huhn and Halpern will face off in the general election March 13.
Edney, who also ran unsuccessfully in 2008, says she is planning to run again in 2014. Meanwhile, she met with Halpern on Thursday and is considering endorsing him.
"I haven't made a decision yet, but I don't want Lorraine to win," Edney said.
Halpern acknowledged he hopes to get some of her votes. "Deb Edney's people see Lorraine as a candidate totally sponsored by the hotels," Halpern said Thursday.
He also is bitter that his former colleague in the political action group Save Our Little Village is running against him. Huhn was president of SOLV, a group now largely dissolved that fought for a comprehensive plan that would allow hotels to economically redevelop.
Halpern was a volunteer for SOLV and in his last election, received the support of hoteliers. He said he had expected to again get their support.
"The hoteliers told me that because of the work Lorraine did for them in SOLV, they had to back her," Halpern said.
When asked if he still supports the SOLV-backed comprehensive plan, he said yes.
When asked how he could expect to get Edney's endorsement when she opposes parts of the plan, Halpern said he is willing to consider changes "good for all the community, not just the hoteliers."
As for Huhn, she says she will not change her platform or campaign strategy. She says she shares the hoteliers' vision for a "healthy" balance between residential and business interests.
"I look at the city's bookends of retail — Pass-a-Grille and Corey Avenue. We have hotels of all kinds, from bed and breakfasts to the TradeWinds. We have it all but just need to dress it up," Huhn said.
She hopes the city can "step away from the past and get into the future" by making decisions based on "intellect and not emotions."
Incumbent Marvin Shavlan, also a SOLV supporter, echoes that sentiment. Shavlan, 55, decisively won re-election to his District 3 with 513 votes (53.83 percent) against his opponent, Brooke Anderson, out of 953 votes cast.
"It was a very fierce election. We both worked it extremely hard. In the end, the majority of the people seemed to get it that the comprehensive plan will get us to the next level," Shavlan said.
He acknowledges, however, that a significant portion of the city's voters still have their doubts about the controversial plan that is still being challenged in court.
Shavlan says his job now is to educate residents about the benefits of the comprehensive plan.
"Our aging hotels are really hurting property values," Shavlan said. "St. Pete Beach could be one of the greatest beaches in America. I really feel we are on the edge of greatness."