Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Politics

Open Pinellas commission seat drawing much interest

Just one day after Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala announced she would not seek re-election, the crowd of candidates — and potential candidates — that has emerged to succeed her has grown to include nearly a dozen people.

Latvala's District 4 seat, which she has represented since 2000, covers most of North Pinellas, folding into its boundaries Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor and East Lake. The district is heavily Republican ­— by the end of last year, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by nearly 18,000.

Six people had announced their intentions to run, including: Republicans Scott Fisher, Timothy Keffalas and Wanda Kimsey; Democrat Jack McAdoo; and two people running with no party affiliation, Marcus Harrison and Dusty Showers.

But on Wednesday, several more people said they were seriously considering a bid. The group includes a Palm Harbor dentist, a former Republican county commissioner, a young Republican lawyer and a former Democratic mayor of Dunedin.

Only one is certain that he plans to run.

That would be Johnny Johnson, 57, a Palm Harbor resident and retired pediatric dentist who led the fight in 2012 to restore fluoridation in Pinellas County. A narrow majority of commissioners voted in 2011 to stop adding fluoride to the county's drinking water, a decision that shocked Johnson and turned him into an activist. A Republican, he has never run for office before.

He announced his intentions to seek the District 4 seat on Wednesday night at a meeting of a group of local dentists where he was introduced by Commissioner Latvala.

"I want to be a part of this new county commission that's working together so well," Johnson said, adding that the 2012 election had "restored my faith in the political process."

Neil Brickfield, 50, who sat on the opposite side of the fluoride debate, is also contemplating a run.

"I'm definitely thinking about it," said Brickfield who was elected to a countywide commission seat in 2008. Four years later, he became one of two Republicans to lose re-election, an unusual turn of events in a county that typically rewards incumbents. At the time, Brickfield said he believed his opposition to fluoride cost him the election.

"I acknowledged on election night that that was a bad decision and the voters punished me for it and I think the voters and I are even-steven," he said on Wednesday. He is now working as the director of the Pinellas County Police Athletic League.

Another former elected official, Bob Hackworth, 58, said he is giving the idea of running some thought.

A Democrat and a former mayor of Dunedin, Hackworth ran for Latvala's commission seat in 2010 and lost. But the family publishing executive said that he is still drawn to the idea of public service. "The opportunity to represent that district is something I'm interested in," he said.

The son of former Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst is also thinking of making a bid. Brian Aungst Jr., 29, is a lawyer with the firm Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen in Clearwater, where he lives. He is the legal counsel for the Pinellas Republican Party and was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Juvenile Welfare Board.

"When I initially heard that Commissioner Latvala was deciding on whether she would like to run for re-election, I began thinking about this seat," Aungst said. "It's appealing to me because it's personal to me, it's where I grew up; it's where I live; it's where my 1-year-old daughter is being raised.

Aungst said he's given himself until Valentine's Day to make a decision. For everyone else, the official deadline is June 20.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected].

Comments
Romano: A Tampa Bay

Romano: A Tampa Bay "superstaríí caught in the crosshairs of Trumpís border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bayís most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trumpís border...
Updated: 12 hours ago
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administrationís move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.Itís also...
Published: 06/17/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Perenich to ĎWalk the DistrictíStephen Perenich, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 12, will be "Walking the District" June 25-29. Perenich will be walking 55 miles in five days, starting in Dade City and heading...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administrationís aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON ó The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA ó Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18