Saturday, July 21, 2018
Politics

Charlie Justice re-elected to Pinellas County Commission

In the lone contested race on the Pinellas County Commission, Democrat Charlie Justice retained his District 3 seat by defeating Republican Mike Mikurak.

Although Mikurak outspent Justice in the race, unofficial results show the incumbent won 52 percent to Mikurak's 48 percent. Justice said he expected turnout to be high amid a divisive national election.

"We hit every door and every voter we could get to," Justice said, adding he took nothing for granted. "I'm incredibly proud we stayed positive the whole way."

Justice's reelection comes in the year he served as the commission's chairman and battled campaign attacks that mirrored the presidential election: Mikurak's ads framed the race as that of a businessman who could do better job than a career politician.

Justice didn't levy any negative attacks and focused his message on his deep roots in Pinellas County and the county commission's accomplishments since 2012.

Those included helping balance the budget and achieving the lowest debt ratio of any large county in Florida. He also cited the county's improved relationship with its 24 municipalities, working to pass ordinances to protect wage-theft victims and providing help to victims of human trafficking.

Justice's victory will help the Democratic Party retain a 4-3 majority on the commission. Democrats Janet Long and Ken Welch ran unopposed. Mikurak, a political newcomer, entered the care at the urging of Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Kathleen Peters.

The nearly $260,000 in campaign donations raised between the men made the race the costliest battle for a countywide office in 2016. Of that, Mikurak collected $156,000; Justice drew $103,000. In the end, the race did not turn out to be the nail-biter.

Justice, 48, spent a decade in the Florida Legislature before running for a commission seat in 2012. The year before, conservative Republicans voted to stop putting fluoride in the county's drinking water, inviting national scrutiny and ridicule. Justice was one of two pro-fluoride Democrats elected to the commission in 2012, which later voted to restore fluoridation. It was the first time in 30 years that incumbent Republicans were unseated from the board.

Mikurak, 62, is a retired executive who moved to the area 16 years ago. He has worked as a business consultant and has served as a governor's appointee to the Juvenile Welfare Board and a county appointee to CareerSource Pinellas Executive Committee. After congratulating Justice, Mikurak said he fought an uphill battle.

"The first thing I am going to do is go on vacation, Mikurak said. "We gave it a good fight."

Times correspondents Devin Rodriguez and Nancy McCann contributed to this report. Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente

Comments
Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

TAMPA — Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and other countries are beginning to push up prices and depress demand in spots around the Tampa Bay area and Florida, business executives say."We’ve definitely seen that the tariffs have increased ...
Published: 07/20/18
March column: Is Congressional District 16 more flippable? What about District 15?

March column: Is Congressional District 16 more flippable? What about District 15?

In the wake of good fundraising news for Democrat David Shapiro, who is running against Rep. Vern Buchanan in Congressional District 16, political analysts are upping their odds of Shapiro’s winning. But what about Congressional District 15, where Re...
Published: 07/20/18
Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday that running against Joe Biden in 2020 would be "a dream," claiming that Barack Obama "took him out of the garbage heap" to make him his running mate in 2008.Trump was asked ...
Published: 07/19/18
At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

ST. PETERSBURG — Linda and Jack Miller braved the humidity at Demens Landing on Wednesday night for a simple reason: "Treason," said Linda Miller, 66. The St. Petersburg couple joined more than 100 protesters toting signs, pins and megaphones...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/19/18
Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

During the summer of 2012, Cody Wilson hung around J&J, a car-repair shop run by two "goofy" guys in their late 20s. The Austin warehouse was crowded with engine blocks, car parts and Pelican boxes that never seemed to have been opened, but the 24-ye...
Published: 07/18/18
‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

WASHINGTON - For nearly five years, the young Russian political-science student was an unusual fixture at the most important events of the U.S. conservative movement.Maria Butina, who was indicted this week on charges of being a covert Russian agent,...
Published: 07/18/18
PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin made inaccurate statements to the media following their one-on-one talks in Helsinki about election meddling, global terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation.Here’s a rundown of our fact-checks.Trump:...
Published: 07/17/18
Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

JOHANNESBURG — Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday took aim at "strongman politics" in his highest-profile speech since leaving office, urging people around the world to respect human rights and other values now under threat in an imp...
Published: 07/17/18
Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Hypocrisy, thy name is Rick Scott.And, yes, I owe Shakespeare an apology.But I think Florida’s governor owes all of us an apology.This isn’t about one man’s opinion, and it isn’t about philosophical differences. This is about a politician who is publ...
Published: 07/17/18
Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

HELSINKI — Standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit and seemed to accept Putin’s i...
Published: 07/16/18