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In Pinellas Park, no stone is unthrown

The television-like drama and political infighting surrounding Tuesday's City Council election may have made it one of the most memorable political showdowns in this city's history.

Charles "Chuck" Williams, who had run for office three times, used every available chance to hammer Seat 2 incumbent Linda Matthews' attendance record. Meanwhile, Patricia Thomas, a physics teacher and political newcomer, tried to convince voters that Mayor Cecil Bradbury was out of touch with the community after 12 years in office.

In the end, only one of the feisty challengers succeeded. Williams and Bradbury will be sworn in tonight at City Hall.

"Right from the beginning you could tell it was going to be a hot race," said council member William Mischler. "Chuck and Patricia made things more aggressive than they have been in years past. It was a real battle."

Council member Armand "Sandy" Burke, who ran unopposed in the election, agreed.

"It was nasty, no question about it," he said. "I would have rather seen the kind of campaign where you let the people hear what you want to do, not what the other guy hasn't done. That's negative."

Though some people have singled out Williams' attack on Matthews' record as an example, he said his campaign was good, clean politics.

"I don't think I ran a negative campaign. It's not negative to tell voters when someone is not doing their job," Williams said. "My idea of a negative campaign is smearing someone. I didn't do that. I brought out records and facts that people needed to be aware of."

Matthews would not comment Wednesday.

Bradbury said he was more troubled by the low voter turnout, particularly in one area of the city. "The people in the area that was devastated by the (1992) tornado did not get out and support any candidate," he said. "We did everything possible to help them get their lives back together. You'd think they would at least want to come out and say we're a part of this community.

"I hope it's not a comment on their appreciation to this city."

The election drew out just 432 of the more than 3,000 voters registered in the two precincts near that area of town, according to election tallies by City Clerk Grace Kolar. Overall, about 18 percent or 3,687 of the city's 20,777 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.

Perhaps the most interesting outcome of this year's election is the new look of the City Council.

With Matthews' loss to Williams, Patricia Bailey becomes the council's only female voice.

"It was good having another woman around. Linda did a good job; she will be missed. But I don't think things will be that different," said Bailey, who in 1973 became the first woman elected to City Council. "I guess all it really means is that Pinellas Park has come full circle, right back where we started."