Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Elections Tuesday in three North Pinellas cities

Voters in three North Pinellas cities will go to the polls Tuesday to choose new leaders.

In Tarpon Springs, voters will also decide whether the city should sell a long-vacant former nursing home to a developer who wants to renovate and reopen it.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Early voting remains in effect through Sunday at Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections offices. To view hours and locations, visit votepinellas.com/?id=8.

Safety Harbor

Safety Harbor residents will choose a mayor and two commissioners in an election marked by controversy over development. Those elected will likely influence the future of the city's Waterfront Park and the property known as the Firmenich Citrus Center.

Mayor Joe Ayoub, 37, an accountant and chief financial officer of a technology company, is being challenged by City Commissioner Nancy Besore, 57, a high school teacher in Hillsborough County, and former Mayor Andy Steingold, 53, an attorney. The winner will serve three years.

Ayoub was endorsed by the Pinellas Realtor Organization, which also contributed to his campaign.

The two open City Commission seats this year are both being contested by newcomers to the Safety Harbor political scene. Since Besore chose to run for mayor and must vacate her Seat 3 even if she loses, two people are running for her seat: Dean Harmeson, 41, a defense consultant, and Andy Zodrow, 44, an environmental attorney with Hillsborough County. The winner will serve the remaining one year of Besore's term.

Zodrow has been endorsed by the city's firefighters union.

Commissioner Nina Bandoni chose not to run for re-election to Seat 4, and two people are seeking to replace her: Carlos Diaz, 49, who owns his own business consulting company, and Ray Irvin, 67, a retired public servant in Indianapolis and now the owner of a boat-inspection company. The winner will serve a full three-year term.

Irvin has been endorsed by the firefighters union. Diaz has been endorsed by the Pinellas Realtor Organization and the Florida Leadership Committee.

All winners will be sworn in at the April 7 commission meeting.

To watch a video of the city candidate forum, go to the city website, cityofsafetyharbor.com.

Clearwater

Clearwater has two City Council seats up for grabs. Seat 4 incumbent Bill Jonson, 69, a retired Honeywell project manager, drew two challengers: David Allbritton, 63, a contractor and former chairman of the Downtown Development Board, and Konrad McCree, 29, a business analyst and minister.

Jonson has appealed to voters to trust his experience, while Allbritton and McCree, who are making their first runs for office, say a fresh perspective is needed on the council.

In the Seat 5 race, former council member Hoyt Hamilton, 55, who helps run the family-owned Palm Pavilion on Clearwater Beach, and Army veteran Jon-Paul Rosa, 30, a student at St. Petersburg College who has worked as a Department of Defense contractor, are seeking the seat being vacated by term-limited Paul Gibson.

Rosa, who switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in August, has received $10,500 from the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee. That prompted Hamilton, a registered Republican, to accuse Rosa of bringing partisan politics into a nonpartisan city race.

Rosa, a first-time candidate, said he took the money to spread his message and help with name recognition.

Allbritton and Hamilton have been endorsed by the city fire and police unions, Pinellas Realtors and the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. Rosa and McCree have been endorsed by the labor union that represents most city workers and the West Central Florida Federation of Labor, an AFL-CIO central labor council for the 12-county Tampa Bay area.

To view the Feb. 14 city candidate forum, visit myclearwater.com. Click on the "Streaming Video" tab and then click "Special Meetings."

The positions are for four years and are elected citywide.

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs voters will choose a new city commissioner from among three candidates.

They'll also be asked to approve the sale of a vacant, dilapidated former nursing home that the city owns on Walton Avenue. The prospective buyer plans to renovate it and open a 100-bed assisted living facility there.

The City Commission candidates are:

• Chris Hrabovsky, 44, a political activist who works as a hypnotist. He has been commenting at commission meetings for eight years and is best-known for rallying opposition to a proposed Walmart supercenter on the banks of the Anclote River.

• Joe Muzio, 62, a Realtor who ran unsuccessfully for a commission seat in 2010. He's a veteran and a former executive at HSN, formerly Home Shopping Network, and he's been on the board of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce.

• Rea Sieber, 61, a Sponge Docks business owner who heads the Tarpon Springs Merchant Association. She's on the city's budget advisory committee and its tourism council.

They are all seeking Seat 2, held by term-limited Commissioner Susan Slattery. The winner will serve a three-year term. Commissioners earn $8,000 annually.

Commissioner Townsend Tarapani retained Seat 1 when no one filed to run against him.

Sieber was recruited by Slattery to run. She's been endorsed by Tarpon's firefighter and police unions. At political forums she speaks in generalities, touching on a wide variety of issues.

Muzio focuses on stimulating economic growth and wants to rekindle Tarpon's relationships with developers and investors.

Hrabovsky envisions an atypical and ambitious role for city government in taking on big-picture issues like foreclosures, flood insurance and utility bills. He wants Tarpon to look into running its own power company.

Comments
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17