Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Politics

St. Pete will vote on more than just mayor in November

ST. PETERSRBURG — The most expensive — and perhaps the most contentious — mayoral race in city history is headed to a runoff.

Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman finished Tuesday's primary in a near draw with former Mayor Rick Baker. Rick vs. Rick will continue on until the Nov. 7 runoff.

But that's not the only choice city voters will have to make on the November ballot.

MAYORAL PRIMARY: Kriseman, Baker headed to runoff

CITY COUNCIL PRIMARY: Justin Bean leads District 6 council race; Driscoll, Blackmon trail

Perhaps even more important than the mayor's race is the 10-year renewal of the Penny for Pinellas sales tax, which funds a variety of projects for the county and its 24 cities.

Voters have approved earlier rounds of the 1-cent sales tax in 1989, 1997 and 2007 and it has generated billions for Pinellas projects since 1990. Penny for Pinellas funds have helped pay for fire stations and equipped first-responders; built bridges, parks and roads; and other projects.

PENNY FOR PINELLAS: Pinellas County Commission charts course for next round of Penny for Pinellas sales tax

The Penny is especially crucial in St. Petersburg, which will require the funds to help fix its sewer system after the recent sewage crisis (which was the issue in the mayor's race.) Whichever mayor prevails in November will be counting on Penny for Pinellas funds.

There will also be three City Council races decided.

• The field in the District 6 race is not yet settled. Justin Bean won with 21 percent of the vote in a crowded field of eight candidates.

But the two contenders to oppose him in the runoff were separated by just four votes. Gina Driscoll and Robert Blackmon both earned nearly 18 percent, with Driscoll holding the slim lead. A handful of votes still need to be reviewed, and the narrow margin could trigger a recount, said Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections spokesman Jason Latimer.

One of them will face Bean in the Nov. 7 election and vie to replace departing City Council member Karl Nurse.

• Two well-funded candidates will face each other for the District 2 seat: Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless. They'll campaign to replace term-limited Council member Jim Kennedy.

• In District 4, incumbent Darden Rice will face first-time candidate Jerick Johnston in November.

• One race voters didn't get to decide this year is the District 8 seat: City Council incumbent Amy Foster was also up for re-election and prevailed, thanks to her lack of an opponent.

There will also be a charter amendment and two referendums on the November ballot:

• Voters will be asked to amend the city charter to allow City Council members to express their opinions about city staffing issues, such as management or non-professional management jobs, changes to boards and commissions and the hiring and firing of council staff.

The current charter bars council members from asking for the appointment or removal of all city employees save senior managers.

• There will be a referendum to authorize an agreement to give the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission a 10-year lease to operate Walter Fuller Baseball Park with the option of a 10-year renewal. The commission would agree to pay for at least $300,000 in upgrades.

VINOY REFERENDUM: Vinoy resort will ask St. Petersburg voters to approve new parking garage (with tennis courts on top)

• Voters must also bless a referendum that would allow the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club to complete a $50 million redevelopment that calls for building a new one-story parking garage over eight existing tennis courts.

But the Vinoy acquired the 2.3 acres that the tennis courts currently sit on in a swap with the city in 1984, trading some of its waterfront land for what is now part of Vinoy Park. But that means city voters still need to approve improvements to the property, even if its now owned by the Vinoy. Voters overwhelmingly approved a similar expansion in 1997.

Mail ballots go out to military and overseas voters on Sept. 22 and to everyone else on Oct. 3.

The deadline to register to vote in November's election is Oct. 10.

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