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Garvey triumphs // Clearwater mayor takes fourth term with ease

Mayor Rita Garvey crushed challenger James Warner by a 2-1 margin Tuesday and won the right to serve a fourth term as mayor.

Warner raised more than twice as much campaign money as Garvey _ $38,000 compared with $16,000 _ and ran what many considered the most spirited race against Garvey in years.

But predictions of a close race evaporated after election workers counted the first few precincts Tuesday night.

Warner had campaigned on the need to invigorate the business climate in downtown Clearwater and on Clearwater Beach, and stressed that he had the energy and vision to make the needed changes.

Garvey, on the other hand, said she wanted to maintain Clearwater's neighborly, small-town atmosphere.

After learning of her victory late Tuesday, Garvey said the results showed voters did not like her opponent's style and his "glitzy" ideas.

"I'd like to think it's because of my reputation, that people like what I've done," Garvey said. "But I also think they were uncomfortable with my opponent, that what he stood for was not for Clearwater."

Warner said the city deserves better than Garvey, whom he criticized as lacking a vision for the future.

"This city has great potential, but it needs to have leadership for a city, not a small town," Warner said in conceding the election Tuesday night during a boisterous party at Bobby's Bistro on Clearwater Beach.

"Obviously the citizens of Clearwater like a small-town atmosphere. Maybe we were too much, too fast for them."

The election marked the first time that members of the Church of Scientology took a visible role in a campaign, sending money to Warner and campaigning for him.

Clearwater has been the sect's world spiritual headquarters since the mid-1970s.

Warner, 48, president of VIP Realty on Sand Key, had said he would try to bring the church into the ongoing conversation about downtown redevelopment. But, he said, Scientology was far from his top priority.

Garvey, 50, has been mayor since 1987. She first was elected to the commission in 1980 and has always based her campaigns on her accessibility to residents throughout the city.

Tuesday night, she said she looked forward to working with the new commission.

She said the election of new Commissioners Karen Seel and Ed Hooper ensured the commission would be a positive force. Seel replaces Fred Thomas, who has been Garvey's strongest commission opponent. Hooper ousted incumbent Sue Berfield, who also frequently opposed Garvey.

"I know both of them (Seel and Hooper), and I look forward to working with them," Garvey said, predicting the commission would be "calm, cool, steady, rational, looking for ways of solving things rather than ways of creating problems."