If you happen to see a 72-year-old fellow in the next several weeks who has a distinctive set of spectacles and a penchant for talking about such issues as health care and the national debt, stop him and ask if he's running for Congress. It just might be write-in candidate Michael S. Levinson.
Levinson's name will not be on the ballot in the March 11 general election for Pinellas County's open congressional seat. But there will be a blank space in which voters can write in candidates' names.
If more people vote for Levinson than Democrat Alex Sink, or Libertarian Lucas Overby, or the eventual Republican nominee (it will be either Michael Bircher, David Jolly or Kathleen Peters), then Levinson wins.
Levinson of St. Petersburg said he wanted to collect enough signatures to get his name on the ballot in the March 11 general election, but there simply wasn't time — this seat became open after the Oct. 18 death of longtime Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
However, if he doesn't manage to win as a write-in, he said he already is planning to collect some 5,000 signatures in hopes of getting on the ballot in the next general election, which will be in November.
Levinson said, "I'm the best candidate to represent the county because I'm independent, therefore both parties have to come to me for my vote."
When they do, he says he plans to let them know that if they want his vote, they'll have to support a mass transit program for Pinellas County.
His website is michaelslevinson.com.
Oh, and about those glasses, which have wide circular lens. He calls them his trademark.
He said they were sunglasses belonging to his mother in the 1970s, which he later repurposed with new lenses.
Debate spotlights election
The Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College will partner to broadcast a debate in the general election race to succeed the late Republican U.S. Rep. Young.
The Feb. 3 debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates will be hosted on the SPC Seminole campus by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and is sponsored by AARP.
The special election is March 11.
"We believe this debate will not only inform the voters of District 13 but will air issues of great importance to the people of the entire Tampa Bay region," said Times editor Neil Brown. "A congressional seat has high stakes for all of us."
The debate will feature the winner of the Republican primary in January against Democrat Sink.
The debate will be moderated by Times political editor Adam C. Smith and Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel in a special edition of Political Connections.
The Times has produced debates for local, state and national offices for two decades, including races for Florida governor, Tampa and St. Petersburg mayors, the U.S. Senate and the 1996 national Vice Presidential Debate.
Negron raises $960,000
While state Sen. Jack Latvala has been busy playing kingmaker in Pinellas County and recruiting candidates to thwart Jolly's congressional aspirations, his rival for the Florida Senate presidency in 2016 seems to have been busy raising serious money.
His team tells us that at week's end, Sen. Joe Negron's political committee, the Treasure Coast Alliance, will report more than $960,000 raised.
That's a whopper of a haul for the Stuart Republican considering it was all raised during November, a holiday month.
Times political editor Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.