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GULFPORT // Incumbents coast to overwhelming victories in Gulfport voting

Published Jul. 6, 2006

(ran Beach edition)

Voters elected Michael J. Yakes to a fourth term Tuesday in an election where incumbents were overwhelming winners.

City Council members Jack B. Olsen and Larry Allen Cooper also were re-elected by wide margins.

Of 8,868 registered voters, 2,199 cast their ballots. All three winners received at least 73 percent of the vote.

"It says that the people are supportive of this Council and myself," Yakes said at a Council meeting where the results were announced.

Three referendums also passed with at least 70 percent of the vote. They:

Require a special election if three or more Council seats become vacant at once;

Give the Council the authority to determine terms, powers, duties and other matters for the board of adjustment and the planning and zoning board.

Yakes, 53, has served three terms as mayor as well as three terms on the City Council. He grew up in Gulfport and works for the Florida Department of Transportation as a health and safety planner.

David Lowman, 33, his opponent, has lived in Gulfport for four years. He is the owner of Gulfport Liquor Store and Sharp A's Lounge.

In early February, Lowman charged council member Colleen Camp with uprooting one of his many campaign signs. Gulfport police declined to investigate because Lowman's witness wouldn't come forward.

"I have never seen dirtier, smearier, gossipier politics than Gulfport city elections," Paul Hornsleth, former chairman of the Democratic Party in Pinellas, said at the time.

The mayoral term is for two years. The salary is $500 a month plus expenses.

City Council members serve for two years and earn $400 a month plus expenses.

Olsen, 52, has been a council member since 1991. He has lived in Gulfport for 19 years and owns three home health-care businesses.

His opponent, in Ward 2, John G. Freiberger, is originally from Tampa; he has lived in Gulfport about 10 years. Freiberger, 52, works in customer service at Surface Technical Corp.

Cooper, 47, was appointed to the council to represent Ward 4 in September. He works in the printing department of the St. Petersburg Times. Originally from Ohio, he has lived in Gulfport for 12 years.

His opponent, 68-year-old Neil D. MacKerron, is retired from the insurance and real estate business. He has lived in Gulfport since 1985; he is a native of Maine.

Fighting crime and changing from a city manager to a strong mayor form of government were the two major campaign issues in Gulfport.

City Council Ward 2

Freiberger 505

Olsen 1,553

City Council Ward 4

Cooper 1,448

MacKerron 518