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COUNCIL MEMBER GETS 2 CHALLENGERS

Jamie Bennett, who was re-elected to the City Council in 2003 without opposition, will face a pair of challengers this fall.

The last-minute candidacies of Chris Kelly and Debra Woodard create the need for a September primary election in the city's southernmost council district, District 5.

Their entry into the race was the only major development Monday as qualifying ended in four City Council races. Seats in Districts 1, 3 and 7 will also be contested this fall.

"I figured I would have some opposition," said Bennett, who was first elected in 2001 to fill Larry Williams' seat. "This is my last term. If nothing else, people are gearing up their campaigns either now or for four years from now when the seat will be open."

Kelly, co-founder of Pinellas Heritage group and a former president of the Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association, said part of the reason he's running is because Bennett encouraged it during a meeting in February.

Kelly said Bennett, who is viewed as a likely mayoral candidate in 2009, seemed to want a campaign to boost his profile.

Bennett wouldn't talk about his future Monday, but said he didn't discourage Kelly from running.

"I'm running to remain the City Council representative in District 5," he said. "What happens after that can be up for speculation."

Kelly said Bennett's intentions are obvious.

"He wants to leave in two years and run for mayor," Kelly said. "I'm not running here as a foil. I'm here to win. I would not ask the people who I respect and trust to donate funds and resources and energy, unless I intended to improve St. Petersburg as a result."

The inclusion of Woodard as the third candidate opens the city's volatile primary process, where only residents in a particular district are allowed to vote, and as little as 2,000 votes will be cast.

There will also be a primary in District 3, where four candidates have qualified to replace outgoing council member Bill Foster.

The top two vote getters in each primary advance to the Nov. 6 general election, where voters across the city will have the final say.

Aaron Sharockman can be reached at asharockman@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2273.

FAST FACTS

Who's running

DISTRICT 1

(west of 58th Street)

Bob Kersteen, 70, City Council member from 1995-2000.

Herb Polson, 59, appointed to the City Council in 2006.

DISTRICT 3

(Shore Acres, Snell Isle)

Bill Dudley, 63, ran unsuccessfully in 2003.

Cathy Harrelson, 53, community, environmental activist.

Ed Montanari, 49, chairman of the Albert Whitted Airport advisory task force.

Cliff Gephart, 37, writer of the comedy short Pawn'd.

DISTRICT 5

(southern tip of city)

Jamie Bennett, 54, incumbent elected in 2001 and 2003.

Chris Kelly, 40, co-founder of group Pinellas Heritage, former president of Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association.

Debra Woodard

DISTRICT 7

(mid-city, between Fifth Avenue N and 26th Avenue S)

Gershom Faulkner, 36, former aide to state Rep. Frank Peterman.

Wengay Newtown, 43, president of Westminster Heights Neighborhood Association.

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