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DISTRICT 6 // Peterman pulls near double the vote for Welch

By a near 2-1 ratio, voters in the 6th District turned away from incumbent council member David T. Welch in favor of Frank Peterman Jr., a challenger half his age.

Environmental consultant Thomas R. Cuba came in a distant third and is out of the picture.

People watching election-night results Tuesday night at City Hall were struck not so much by Peterman's victory as by its lopsidedness.

Peterman dominated from the outset and widened his margin through the evening.

"I really believe that the district has spoken," a calm Peterman said moments after the final results were reported. "I think what the district's residents want now is for the rest of the city to ratify the wishes of the district."

He was referring to his citywide face-off with Welch in the March 25 general election.

Peterman understands too well the vagaries of running citywide.

Four years ago, as a first-time challenger to Welch, Peterman survived the district vote in the primary only to lose to Welch in the city vote. The loss was all the more painful because Peterman actually outpolled Welch by a few votes within the district.

If anything, the last two election cycles show that the voters in the 6th District place little stock in incumbency. In 1993, Welch and Peterman teamed up to beat incumbent Charles D. Shorter in the primary. Tuesday, district voters clearly indicated their preference for Peterman.

"We're disappointed by the primary results," Welch said in a statement read by his son, Kenneth Welch. "We remain confident that we'll be better able to communicate our message to the people of St. Petersburg as we move into the general election."

Welch, 69, had worked to portray Peterman as well-intentioned but lacking the experience needed to help set city policies and priorities. In addition to his most recent four-year term, Welch also served two four-year terms on City Council in the 1980s.

During his time on the council, Welch has served on a number of regional public agencies that oversee issues ranging from land-use planning to water protection.

Peterman, 34, now has that first campaign and Tuesday's win behind him as he heads into the general.

If he needed any sort of a boost, Cuba offered his unsolicited support to Peterman Tuesday night: "My interest is in seeing Mr. Peterman win, and I will do everything in my power that I can to see that happen."

Cuba finished the race with less than 10 percent of the vote.