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GOP sweeps Pinellas races

Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, in white shirt, gets a hug from family friend Ann Duncan at the Elections Service Center in Largo.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, in white shirt, gets a hug from family friend Ann Duncan at the Elections Service Center in Largo.

Republicans surged to victory Tuesday in the races for sheriff, property appraiser and supervisor of elections in Pinellas County, brushing aside any worries about an Obama Effect helping local Democrats.

Incumbent Sheriff Jim Coats defeated Randall Jones with 61 percent of the vote. Pam Dubov, the chief deputy in the Property Appraiser's Office, claimed 57 percent of the vote over Ben Friedlander. And Deborah Clark, incumbent supervisor of elections, took 61 percent against challenger Jack Killingsworth.

"It was a tough campaign as far as dealing with the campaign rhetoric of our opponent, the unethical tactics he used," Coats said Tuesday night. "I think the voters saw through all of that and considered it when they cast their vote."

Coats, 64, won his second term, garnering more votes than any other candidate in the county. A 37-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, Coats oversees 2,800 employees and a budget topping $265-million.

His opponent, Jones, 39, a former sheriff's deputy who resigned to run for office, said he had great respect for Coats and wished him well in his next term.

"Throughout this campaign, I ran on my integrity, I ran a campaign of dignity," Jones said. "I'll still be pleased with the man I see in the mirror."

Even the tightest of the three races — property appraiser — was still decided by double digits.

Dubov, 52, spent 19 years in the appraiser's office, 16 of them as chief deputy, before stepping down to run. Throughout the campaign, her opponent, Friedlander, a St. Petersburg Realtor, tried to link Dubov to last year's land deal scandal involving Property Appraiser Jim Smith, who is stepping down.

Dubov has said the extent of her involvement was warning Smith not to sell his land to the county because the public would never approve of a price tag nearly four times the assessed value.

She said both she and voters are ready to put that episode behind them.

"The voters deserve a lot of credit for getting it right, and I don't mean to be arrogant, but I think they got it right," she said. "And I'm appreciative."

Friedlander, 57, said he did not regret the campaign he had run.

"I didn't put anything out that I didn't believe," he said. "And I think that the voters made their choice on what they believed."

Clark kept the supervisor of elections post she has held since 2000.

"Usually you only hear complaints in this job," said Clark, 59. "I'm overwhelmed. I never expected these kinds of numbers."

Killingsworth, an electrical engineer for nearly three decades, struggled to get his campaign off the ground.

Throughout the campaign, Clark emphasized her 30 years in the elections office and her opponent's lack of experience.

But Killingsworth, 74, scored points with some voters when he criticized Clark's choice to have just three early voting sites. The Democrat said the decision favored Republicans.

Clark, a Republican, maintained that encouraging mail-in ballots and limiting early voting sites was more efficient and less expensive.

Times staff writer Aaron Sharockman contributed to this report.

GOP sweeps Pinellas races 11/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 12:26pm]

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