Thursday, September 20, 2018
Politics

In St. Pete’s District 4, a rookie challenges a council veteran

ST. PETERSBURG — As the three City Council races draw to a close, the candidates have been canvassing the community to spread their messages and set themselves apart from each other.

But in District 4, that’s not so hard. The two candidates have perhaps the most divergent backgrounds in this year’s city elections.

ST. PETERSBURG CITY COUNCIL RACES

DISTRICT 2: Council candidates Gabbard and Harless disagree on fundraising

DISTRICT 6: Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll’s council race could come down to partisanship

The incumbent candidate is Darden Rice, 47, the council chair who has long been involved in civic affairs. The former president of the League of Women Voters sits on the boards of Forward Pinellas, the county’s transportation planning agency, and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

She is opposed by 21-year-old Jerick Johnston. He is a rookie candidate, with no political experience, running in his first election. He is a student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and created his own information technology business, Johnston Consulting.

Johnston said he wants to represent the city’s growing segment of younger residents.

"I really think we need a young voice on city council," he said. "We’re a city that’s getting younger and younger. I’d love to see that get represented."

For his first foray into politics, Johnston has picked a tough road: District 4 is the only council race with a well-funded incumbent candidate. The incumbents in the District 2 and 6 races were term-limited out, but Johnston couldn’t quite explain why he ran for this particular seat.

Rice has raised $148,481 according to the latest campaign finance reports filed Oct. 27 and spent $146,978 on election expenses such as mailers and a TV ad.

Johnston, by comparison, has raised $5,331 and spent $2,342. His largest expenditure was $664 spent on campaign signs.

Despite that disparity and long odds, Johnston won’t concede anything. To him, he’s still got a shot in Tuesday’s election.

However, he said that he also sees the election itself as a "huge" learning opportunity.

For example, when he first started his campaign, the soft-spoken candidate kept his answers brief and was frequently asked to speak up into the microphone. But since those early forums, Johnston said he’s become more comfortable speaking in public.

"I’m highly introverted," he said. "Standing on stage is kind of out of my comfort zone. I’m much better in small groups. It’s really talking with individual voters.

"I’ve loved so much talking to people. I’ve learned everyday how everyone has something important to them."

While the other city candidates have spent the election cycle tearing into each other (see the mayor’s race) Johnston and Rice have so far enjoyed a cordial rivalry.

"I appreciate that Jerick has not been negative," Rice said.

She also welcomes the presence of young people trying to get involved in municipal politics.

"It wasn’t so long ago that I was the young person trying to get involved in city government," she said.

Johnston said he’s spent his time researching issues such as the city’s spending on infrastructure and economic development. Being a third-generation St. Petersburg resident offers, he said, him a perspective some might not associate with his age. He also cited his experience running his own business as helping teach him what small business owners in the city go through.

"One of the best experiences of this campaign was candidate orientation," he said. "Getting to sit down with the city department heads and learn about (their areas of expertise) was a once in a lifetime opportunity."

However, Rice said candidates should make sure they have a good understanding of city government before deciding to run for office.

"There’s something to be said for earning your stripes in a volunteer capacity as a young person," she said. "It helps build experience and insight."

Johnston and Rice are almost the opposite of rivals. After the election, Rice said, she hopes to get Johnston more involved in city affairs.

"Should I win, I’m definitely going to reach out to Jerick find ways to get involved in the city and plugged in," she said. "I want to make sure he doesn’t fade away."

Contact Divya Kumar at [email protected] Follow @divyadivyadivya.

Comments
Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

TEMPLE TERRACE — After complaints from city residents, the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has notified the City Council that it will not rent space again to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for its annual banquet.The country clubȁ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, it’s in your hands

Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, it’s in your hands

It’s not often that we citizens — busy with work, paying the bills, living our lives — find ourselves with the power to right a fundamental wrong.But here in Florida, we’re about to get that chance.On the November ballot — among all those candidates ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number ...
Published: 09/19/18
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