Tuesday is election day in four south Pinellas cities _ Pinellas Park, parts of St. Petersburg, Treasure Island and South Pasadena. The following is a roundup of the issues and the candidates.
In southern St. Petersburg, residents in state House District 55 will send a new legislator to Tallahassee to fill the unfinished term of longtime Rep. Doug Jamerson.
District 55 encompasses most of southern St. Petersburg, part of northern Manatee County and a few voters in Hillsborough County. The legislative seat became vacant last year when Jamerson was appointed state education commissioner.
The legislative term runs out this year, so the winner will be up for election again in the fall.
The Democratic nominee is Rudolph Bradley, a school social worker whose campaign platform stresses the importance of education in improving the lives of Florida residents. Throughout the campaign, Bradley has hammered home the theme that District 55's young people cannot expect to find well-paying jobs unless they acquire a good education.
"Education is the backbone of our society," Bradley told an audience at the Bethel Community Baptist Church on Thursday night.
Bradley, 47, has been endorsed by former competitors in the race, including former Palmetto City Council member Charles Smith and insurance salesman Earnest Williams. He also has been endorsed by Jamerson, state Rep. Peter Wallace, the Police Benevolent Association, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association and the St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters.
Challenging Bradley on the Republican ticket will be Charles Fleer, a former social worker and visiting teacher who now owns an advanced technology consulting firm. At several candidate forums, Fleer vowed to work toward improving the state's educational system, reducing crime, and protecting the environment.
But Fleer's strongest message was this: District 55 _ and the state _ cannot solve the most persistent social problems without attracting new businesses. Luring new industry will create jobs, said Fleer, 57. And jobs will enable youngsters to avoid crime.
"I think we need change," he said, "and I'm prepared to make a proposal to implement change."
The legislative race also includes an Independent candidate, whose platform stresses his lack of ties to the two political parties.
Grady Irvin, a lawyer with the Cunningham Law Group in Tampa, has emphasized the importance of people, not political parties, in his campaign. At the forum Thursday night, Irvin said he would work to protect the powerless in his district, including the elderly, AIDS patients and young people.
"What I've learned in this campaign is that the real issue is people," Irvin said Thursday night.
"It's not the Democratic party. It's not the Republican party. It's not the Independent party," said Irvin, 30. "It's people."
Two familiar faces and two new ones are on the ballot.
On one side of this election are seasoned incumbents: Mayor Cecil Bradbury and Seat 2 Council member Linda Matthews. Facing Bradbury is challenger Patricia "Pat" Thomas. Charles "Chuck" Williams wants to unseat Matthews. In the middle of the contests are weighty and controversial issues such as redevelopment, drainage and economic development.
All eyes are focused on the main event, Bradbury vs. Thomas. Both say the weeks leading up to election day have been fraught with frustrations and victories.
"You never know what voters will do until the day comes, but I feel comfortable from the comments I have received that I will win," said
"I have the ability, the experience and a job that is generous enough to allow me to attend meetings. I'm not so sure the School Board would be as generous," said Bradbury, referring to Thomas, who is employed by Pinellas County schools.
says she has everything needed to do the job, including time. Before entering the race, she consulted school officials.
"The School Board isn't as inflexible as people think. They don't want to hold their teachers back," she said. "I think what this election is really about is the fact the people are ready for change, they're tired of the stagnant attitude."
The candidates for Seat 2 also have been sparring.
"A lot of things are about to happen to our city, and I think since the voters finally have a choice with some viable challengers, some of the apathy is going to disappear," said election, only about 28 percent of the city's 20,941 registered voters turned out.
"We've done everything right. Now it's up to them," said Williams, 53. "If voters want to re-elect a person who misses meetings and has voted the way Linda has done, that's their choice."
Matthews will tell anyone that this election has been the toughest challenge of her career. But it has not shaken her resolve that she is the best person for the job.
"I don't think this kind of an election is fair to the voter. You spend so much time defending yourself that you don't get to speak to the issues," said Matthews, ". . . I'm sure (the voters) will make the right choice."
Voters in South Pasadena will elect two commissioners from a five-candidate pool.
Vice Mayor Fred Held's seat is up for grabs. He has served the maximum commission term. The seat held by Cliff Donley, 52, also is on the ballot, but Donley is seeking a second term.
Commissioners serve three-year terms. They can serve three terms consecutively and run again after a break from office.
The other candidates are Joe Catalfamo, 71, Betty L. Keistler, 59, Maks A. Stajich, 87, and Dottie Wade, 56.
Main issues include public safety and redevelopment of land used by businesses. A concern is bringing in businesses that fit the framework of the community, which has a population of about 6,000.
Candidates have discussed the feasibility of opening businesses that may increase traffic and reduce pedestrian safety. Currently South Pasadena is home to two major supermarkets, but a third is seeking to open a store in the community. The debate is whether a community of South Pasadena's size needs three supermarkets.
Residents also will vote on a referendum whether to raise the mayor's monthly salary to $550 from $375 and the commissioner's monthly salaries to $450 from $275. This question was put to voters in November, and 62 percent opposed the raise.
It is a wide open race here on Tuesday for the commission seat in District 4 as three political newcomers vie for the vacancy left by Temple Corson.
The race has been a quiet one so far, and most likely will be decided by the personalities and backgrounds of the candidates.
Leon Atkinson, 62, is the founder of Leon's Air-Conditioning and Heating. He said he has reached the point in his career that he can devote time to public service. Already he has a lengthy resume of civic and community activities. He is the current vice chairman of the city's Board of Adjustment and the vice president of the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce.
Also running is Donald Callahan, 65, a former philosophy instructor and longtime resident with strong environmental convictions. He has said he chose to run because he was sickened by the August oil spill that still stains the beaches.
Rounding out the field is John Kapili Jr., 42, who helped establish the Sunshine Beach Homeowners Association. He has said he wants to establish an informal network of people reporting to City Hall to let commissioners know the concerns of residents.
In the District 2 race, incumbent Commissioner Julian Fant, 62, seeks a seventh term. His challenger is Irving S. "Butch" Ellsworth Jr., 47, who is running on a platform of requiring term limits.
Fant, a former mayor, was recently named manager of the chamber of commerce. Previously he had been a real estate associate, and he holds numerous civic and community honors.
Ellsworth is the manager of Kingfish Marine Inc. He previously ran for mayor but was defeated by Mayor Walter Stubbs. Ellsworth has said he wanted to bring a fresh voice to the commission and would better represent younger residents. He said he would like to schedule at least one commission workshop session at night so working people could attend.
Commissioners serve two-year terms and earn $300 a month.
_ Staff writers Nichole M. Christian, Jenny Deam, Carol A. Marbin and Cheryl Ross contributed to this report.