Largo voters choose commissioner, decide charter amendment in Tuesday's election

Two candidates will face off for Largo's only contested race in Tuesday's election.

Initially, three races were up for grabs, but Vice Mayor Gigi Arntzen and Mayor Pat Gerard were automatically re-elected without opposition.

Commissioner Rodney Woods, 52, who owns a landscaping and pest control business, was elected in 2006. He is being challenged for Seat 3 by Curtis Holmes, 60, who owns an insurance business.

Holmes, known for sharing his views during the citizen comment portion of city meetings, has made two unsuccessful City Commission runs before.

In Largo, city commissioners serve three-year terms and represent the city as a whole, rather than by districts.

During the campaign, Woods, who sees himself as a community unifier, has emphasized his experience, his support of long-term plans to redevelop Largo and control growth and his ability to work with other city leaders to accomplish goals.

Holmes, who describes himself as an "out of the box" thinker, says he has proposed "a plethora of innovative ideas" to maintain city services and keep taxes down, but city officials have rejected them.

Holmes has called Woods "ineffective" and has indicated that Woods is not an independent thinker. Woods has questioned Holmes' veracity and the merit of Holmes' ideas.

Tension between Woods and Holmes didn't begin with the campaign.

Over the past couple of years, Holmes, who has been critical of several city leaders, has focused much of his criticism on Woods.

In 2007, Woods told authorities that Holmes met him at City Hall and threatened to expose dirt on him if he didn't resign. Holmes denied making threats. There was a police inquiry, but the case was closed without finding independent corroboration of either account.

Holmes, who has said he quit drinking after arrests for driving under the influence in the 1980s, recently claimed Woods was drunk during a 2007 meeting. Woods called Holmes a liar.

Largo's local unit of the Communications Workers of America is endorsing Woods. Former Commissioner Gay Gentry is also supporting him.

Former commissioners Martin Shelby and Charlie Harper are backing Holmes.

Besides the Seat 3 race, Largo residents will vote on an amendment to the city's charter. The change, if approved, would shorten the election qualifying period from 60 to 15 days. Prospective candidates would still have 60 days to gather petition card signatures because the amendment would also let them pick up cards 45 days before the qualifying period begins.

The rationale: Largo's qualifying period is longer than periods for all other cities in Pinellas County.

Recent legislation prevents candidates from getting certain information about voters from the Supervisor of Elections Office until the qualification period ends or until another candidate qualifies to challenge them.

City Commissioners proposed the amendment because candidates who qualified early this year discovered they had to wait several weeks before moving forward with their campaigns and informing voters of their qualifications.

So far, the Supervisor of Elections office has received more than 4,150 mail ballots. That's more than 9 percent of the city's registered voters.

FAST FACTS

Campaign contributions for Tuesday's election

Rodney Woods

Total: $3,780

Notable donors: Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner, $100; former Commissioner Gay Gentry and her husband, $100; former Commissioner Pat Burke, $50; Eric Gerard, husband of Mayor Pat Gerard, $200

Curtis Holmes

Total: $4,019

Notable donors: Former Mayor Robert Jackson, $100; former Commissioner Martin Shelby, $200

Source: Submitted treasurer's reports listing contributions through Oct. 9.

Largo voters choose commissioner, decide charter amendment in Tuesday's election 10/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2009 5:31am]

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