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GOP sweeps all 3 Pinellas County Commission seats

Nancy Bostock, left, hugs her mother, Judy Haines, during the Republican Executive Committee party at the Hilton St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Nancy Bostock, left, hugs her mother, Judy Haines, during the Republican Executive Committee party at the Hilton St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Republicans swept all three Pinellas County Commission races Tuesday, retaining for the GOP the majority status it has held on the board since 1951.

Commission newcomers Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield won two of the three seats on the seven-member board that are elected countywide.

Incumbent Commissioner Karen Seel easily won her third term. She represents voters in most of Clearwater, Largo and in beach communities from Sand Key to Indian Shores — one of the commission's four single-member districts.

Bostock, 40, a 10-year veteran of the Pinellas School Board with a reputation for fiscal and social conservatism, took 52 percent of the vote, besting Democrat Rene Flowers, a former St. Petersburg City Council member.

Experience in countywide School Board races and a message focusing on efficient use of tax dollars gave her the edge, she said.

"I am very, very grateful to all of the people who have supported me," she said. "I'm looking forward to getting to work and learning about all the issues the County Commission deals with."

Flowers, 44, said it appeared Bostock found strong support in heavily Republican areas such as the beaches and in North Pinellas. Saying she was pleased the two candidates waged a clean campaign, Flowers congratulated Bostock and said she plans to stay involved in politics.

"We fought a hard race," Flowers said. "This is a hard county for a Democrat, and I think we did very well considering."

Brickfield edged out Democrat Paul Matton, who was making his first run for office. In 2004, Brickfield lost in the GOP primary to Ronnie Duncan, who is stepping down after serving one term as commissioner. This time, he won the seat, defeating his primary opponent and winning Tuesday.

A former Safety Harbor city commissioner and vice chairman of the county Republican Party, Brickfield rarely strayed from a simple script. His message to voters: I stand for protecting public safety, improving the local economy and watching government spending "dollar by dollar.''

"It feels spectacular and very humbling at the same time," Brickfield, 45, said of his victory. "It's a great honor that the citizens of Pinellas County have given me the opportunity to serve."

Seel beat back a challenge from Democrat Norm Roche, taking 53 percent of the vote. As long lines formed at early voting centers in the days leading up to the election, she expressed concern that Democrats supporting Barack Obama would vote against Republicans competing in local races.

"I am thankful to the voters who really took time to look at each individual candidate rather than which party they were with," said Seel, 50.

Roche's loss to Seel is his third consecutive failed attempt to win a commission seat. Roche said he was proud to have run an honorable campaign and was puzzled he had not found more support among voters.

"I'm going to be looking at numbers for the next couple of days to try and figure out what happened," said Roche, 46.

No-party candidate Jake Mullens tallied just 6 percent. If Roche had gotten all of Mullens' votes, he still would have lost to Seel.

The new commissioners take office Nov. 18.

GOP sweeps all 3 Pinellas County Commission seats 11/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 10:34am]
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