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District 5 city seat may be up for grabs in 2009

Officials are angling to create a legal exemption that would open an extra City Council seat for the November 2009 election.

Council Chairman Jamie Bennett, whose term is up in 2012, has asked City Attorney John Wolfe to help him bypass the council appointment process and get the District 5 seat on the ballot.

Bennett must resign to run for mayor, but he doesn't want to resign before he has to or allow his council colleagues to pick his successor.

That's impossible under the City Charter, which states that Bennett must resign by May 30 so that voters can select a new representative. In that scenario, the council would appoint someone to temporarily fill Bennett's seat until the newly elected District 5 council member takes office in January 2010, said Wolfe.

If Bennett resigned after May 30, the council would appoint someone to the seat until the term is up in January 2012, Wolfe said.

For Bennett to get his way, the council would have to pass an exemption similar to a 2000 ordinance that allowed voters to replace Bennett's predecessor, Larry Williams, when he resigned to run for mayor.

Wolfe said he is working on a draft that could go before the council soon. If approved, five council positions would be up for election in November.

Hooper to be deputy floor leader in House

State Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, will carry some weight for his party this session. House Speaker Ray Sansom has tapped Hooper to be deputy floor leader, where he'll be a chief aide to the majority whip.

"During this time of economic challenges, it's more important than ever to fight for legislation that will reinvigorate our economy and responsibly balance our state budget," Hooper said in a statement. "In this new position, I'll be able to advocate for legislation that will benefit the families of Pinellas County and Florida."

A former firefighter, Hooper was elected to the Legislature in 2006.

J.J. Beyrouti is Pinellas REC's new chairman

Former Redington Shores Mayor J.J. Beyrouti was elected chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee on Monday. He beat Dan Tucker 108 votes to 20.

Beyrouti will serve two years and replaces Tony DiMatteo, who is now a state committeeman.

Attorney Michael Guju beat Erwin Beck for the vice chairman's spot, 83 votes to 40. Chet Renfro won unopposed for the treasurer's job, as did Glen Schultz for secretary.

St. Petersburg council race might be lively

With the mayoral race and at least five council positions up in the air, the 2009 city election could be one of the most significant local races in years.

City Council members Karl Nurse, Leslie Curran, Jeff Danner and Jim Kennedy are up for re-election. Curran is considering a mayoral bid, which could open the race even further. Council Chairman Jamie Bennett is expected to leave his seat to run for mayor.

Only a few contenders are being widely discussed at this point.

Activist Theresa Lassiter announced that she will challenge Nurse for the District 6 seat earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Will Michaels, vice president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations, said he has been approached about running for Bennett's District 5 seat.

Social worker Steve Kornell has announced he is also considering entering the race. Kornell met with Bennett and earlier this week he held an informal gathering with supporters.

"I'm not 100 percent sure that I'm doing it," said Kornell, 42, who works for Pinellas County schools. "But it's likely that I will run."

Bennett's opponent in the 2007 election, Chris Kelly, said he won't make another play for the seat.

Times staff writers Cristina Silva and Will Van Sant contributed to this week's Bay Buzz. You can visit us at

District 5 city seat may be up for grabs in 2009 12/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:53am]
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