Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Politics

Tight Tampa Bay area primary races will divide Democrats this summer

It's looking to be a long, hot summer for a number of mostly Democratic Tampa Bay politicians battling it out in the Aug. 30 primary.

House District 68, which covers much of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Lealman and Feather Sound, pits two well-funded, well-connected 30-something candidates, Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond, against one another in a race that has local Democrats divided.

All by himself, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman shows just how split Democrats are. He endorsed Lynn when he was in the Democratic 13th Congressional District primary against Charlie Crist. Kriseman then endorsed Diamond for the House seat before Lynn jumped into the race in early May.

In House District 70, a crowded field of three candidates will battle it out for the Democratic nomination in a sprawling district that takes in parts of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

St. Petersburg business owner Dan Fiorini is also endorsed by Kriseman. Former St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton has raised the most money so far. CJ Czaia, a lawyer and former Manatee County Democratic official who has lived or worked in all four counties, rounds out the Democratic field.

The most contentious race in Hillsborough County is a primary battle between two Democrats for the usually staid office of clerk of the Circuit Court: incumbent Clerk Pat Frank vs. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

Frank, 86, is a legendary and longtime Democratic politician versus Beckner, 45, one of the party's young stars and the first openly gay member of the county commission.

Beckner has reached the term limit of his commission seat. He and Frank have told different accounts about how they ended up facing each other. Beckner has questioned how much time Frank spends in office, while she has defended her record and said her age is no obstacle.

Four Democrats are vying for the nomination to replace Beckner — John Dicks, Pat Kemp, Tom Scott and Brian Willis — and all have a wide range of opinions about one of the hottest issues around, transportation.

A few of the most closely watched races this election season are three seats up for grabs on the Pinellas County School Board.

The August primary comes one year after the Tampa Bay Times published Failure Factories, an investigative series that documented how the School Board let five once-average elementary schools in predominantly poor and black neighborhoods descend into the lowest performing schools in the state.

The most competitive race is District 1's at-large seat, which has no incumbent.

Board member Janet R. Clark announced last month that she will not seek a fourth term on the School Board, leaving the countywide seat open. Four candidates are on that ballot including former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Dudley, retired Gulfport Elementary first-grade teacher Joanne Lentino, deputy director for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and St. Petersburg College adjunct ethics professor Matt Stewart, and the race's newest candidate, Robert J. Beal, a 45-year-old St. Petersburg College student and Marine.

Comments
Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Two things you need to know about Florida’s prison budget:1. It was $2.3 billion this year.2. It was still not enough.Kind of staggering when you think of it that way, huh?We keep spending more and more on housing prisoners, and it’s like throwing mo...
Published: 09/18/18
Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday he was willing to speak to a Senate panel to "refute" an allegation he sexually assaulted a woman while in high school, after his accuser said via her attorney that she was ready to testi...
Published: 09/17/18
California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in subu...
Published: 09/16/18
Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. embassy in Havana suspended processing requests from people hoping to leave the island nation as refugees. The reason: Staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew in the wake of mysterious health attacks on em...
Published: 09/17/18
Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

His time in Tallahassee is coming to an end. Eight years of triumph or shambles, depending on your point of view. And yet, Rick Scott’s legacy may not be written until his final minute as governor.For several years, Scott has been plotting a judicial...
Published: 09/15/18
Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

WASHINGTON D.C.? — Back when their relationship was fresh and new, and President Donald Trump still called his defense secretary "Mad Dog" a nickname Jim Mattis detests ? the wiry retired Marine general often took a dinner break to eat burgers with h...
Published: 09/15/18
Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

You would have thought the controversy over whether chickens should be left alone to keep boldly roaming the streets of historic Ybor City — and the impressive pro-chicken lobby that showed up to argue on their behalf — would be the quintessential on...
Published: 09/15/18

5 takeaways from Paul Manafort’s plea agreement

Five takeawaysWASHINGTON — Paul Manafort’s agreement to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel marks a milestone in the investigation led by Robert Mueller. Here are several key elements:Mueller knows more than we doThe public doesn’t kn...
Published: 09/14/18
Clearwater voter forums will discuss referendum on strong mayor charter change

Clearwater voter forums will discuss referendum on strong mayor charter change

CLEARWATER — Residents can hear varying perspectives on the Nov. 6 referendum on whether to change Clearwater’s form of government into a strong mayor system at two upcoming forums.The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a forum Monday ...
Published: 09/13/18
Woman who says she exchanged sex for rent with Hernando commissioner describes political alliances

Woman who says she exchanged sex for rent with Hernando commissioner describes political alliances

BROOKSVILLE — Valerie Surette, the woman at the heart of prostitution-related charges against former Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, told Sheriff’s Office detectives in March that he frequently talked to her about county business. In a r...
Published: 09/12/18