Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Opposing views define County Commission District 3 race

Both are local political veterans. Both are women. But similarities may end there between Nancy Bostock and Rene Flowers.

The two candidates for the Pinellas County Commission District 3 seat have divergent visions of the role that government should play. Their views cast light on how they will perform if elected Nov. 4 to the countywide office.

Bostock, a Republican who has spent a decade on the School Board, views government as often a drag on community welfare. Flowers, a Democrat who served eight years on St. Petersburg's City Council, sees government as a balm for social woes.

Bostock's conservatism extends to social issues. She has spoken out against school district policies that protect the rights of gay people. Flowers voted for a human rights ordinance in St. Petersburg that granted them protections.

"The Flowers/Bostock race, in my view, is a localized version of the McCain/Obama race," said County Commissioner Ken Welch, a Flowers backer. "They represent different approaches to the role, structure and scope of government."

•••

Bostock, 40, was elected to the School Board in 1998. A Pinellas native, she lives in St. Petersburg with her husband, Craig, and three children. The couple is white. Two of their children are adopted, an African-American son and a bi­racial daughter.

In addition to speaking out against creating special protections regarding sexual orientation, as a School Board member Bostock opposed a new tax to raise teachers' wages and defended students who sported the Confederate flag on their clothes.

She did so on free-speech grounds, saying in an interview Friday that students should be held harmless for attire that packs a political message. Confederate flag T-shirts or Malcolm X T-shirts are fine by her, she said.

That position dovetails with Bostock's explanation of why she opposes laws, such as one recently enacted by the County Commission, that extend legal protections based on sexual orientation. Bostock said such laws hamper recognition of people's shared traits.

"What concerns me is that we spend too much time focusing on our differences," she said. "I don't understand why."

The School Board has gained a reputation for bickering. Observers say Bostock has attempted to stay above the fray, but on the whole, the board has been unable to focus on urgent issues like the district's poor graduation rate.

"She hasn't been someone who has typically ranted and raved at meetings," said Terry Boehm, president of the Pinellas Education Foundation. "But at the end of the day we should have had our eye on the ball and done a much better job for our kids."

Even those she has sparred with, like the leader of the local teachers union, says Bostock works hard and comes to meetings prepared.

If elected, Bostock would help direct a county government that in recent years has tried to address problems such as affordable housing and homelessness. She's skeptical of these ventures, saying spending dollars to help people whose money you've just taken in taxes is "not always the best way to go."

•••

Flowers, 44, served on St. Petersburg's City Council from 1999 until early this year. Divorced with two adult children and one minor child, she lives in St. Petersburg, where she was born, and works for a nonprofit that aids seniors.

While on the council, creating affordable housing was Flowers' signature issue. She helped launch a committee that, among other things, increased down payment and closing cost assistance to eligible home buyers.

She cites as a proud achievement standing firm in 2000 when the council forced Bayfront Medical Center out of a hospital cooperative that embraced some elements of Catholic doctrine. The religious association, Flowers says, limited access to treatment at Bayfront.

Flowers also gave vigorous support to summer youth employment programs.

Former council colleagues say Flowers was tireless.

"She worked hard," said James Bennett, now council chairman. "I give her lots of credit."

Bennett also said Flowers has a personality to match her powerful work drive. She doesn't back down easily and can nurse a grudge, he said, which leads some to see her as unbending and prickly.

"I can be very vocal," Flowers said in an interview Friday. "And yeah, when I have something to say, I don't mince words. And for some people, that's considered very confrontational."

Near the end of her time in office, Flowers was named president of the Florida League of Cities, where she again championed the need for workforce housing in the state.

While she acknowledges the need for fiscal restraint, Flowers said that if government ignores community needs, progress is jeopardized. And any elected official who would deny adequate social services to citizens, she said, can't legitimately claim to care for the community.

If elected, Flowers would bring to three the number of African-Americans who sit on the seven-member commission. She expects, but isn't counting on, energetic support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to translate into votes for her and other Democrats lower down the ticket.

"I'm not trying to walk in," she said. "I want to earn my way in."

•••

And yes, Bostock backs Republican presidential candidate John McCain; Flowers is voting for Obama.

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or 727-445-4166.

School Board member Nancy Bostock and former St. Petersburg City Council member Rene Flowers are running for the District 3 Pinellas County Commission seat, which is being vacated by Bob Stewart. Voters will decide the countywide race Nov. 4. Commissioners serve four-year terms and oversee a budget of roughly $2-million. They're paid $90,934 annually.

Here are what the two candidates cite as important achievements while in office:

Bostock

•Expanding the district's fundamental schools program, which offers a "back to basics" approach to education

•Increasing standards and accountability to improve student achievement

•Helping to end decades of federal oversight of the district stemming from a desegregation lawsuit Flowers

•Increased attention to the need for affordable housing in St. Petersburg and across the state

•Ensured that care at Bayfront Medical Center was not restricted due to religious doctrine

•Ensured that programs that employed youth in St. Petersburg during the summer were funded

Opposing views define County Commission District 3 race 10/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.