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Nancy Pelosi? Donald Trump? A Clearwater City Council race gets ideological

Check out this mailer sent by one of the candidates for Seat 3.
A mailer sent by the campaign of Scott Thomas, a candidate for Clearwater City Council Seat 3, in late February, 2020.
A mailer sent by the campaign of Scott Thomas, a candidate for Clearwater City Council Seat 3, in late February, 2020. [ Stacy Lome ]
Published Mar. 3, 2020|Updated Mar. 4, 2020

What do Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi have to do with the Clearwater City Council?

The campaign of Scott Thomas, a candidate for Seat 3 of the Clearwater City Council, sent a mailer to about 5,000 Clearwater households which made the case that ideology could be very important to the local, nonpartisan race.

“I am a pro-Trump conservative who wants to bring commonsense solutions and apply business practices to our city government,” Thomas is quoted on one side of the mailer, which also features the candidate posing with Vice President Mike Pence.

The other side of the leaflet features pictures of Kathleen Beckman — one of Thomas’ three opponents for Seat 3 — and Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

Next to them, in block lettering: “Progressive Democrat Kathleen Beckman."

A mailer sent by the campaign of Scott Thomas, a candidate for Seat 3 of the Clearwater City Council, in late Feburary, 2020.
A mailer sent by the campaign of Scott Thomas, a candidate for Seat 3 of the Clearwater City Council, in late Feburary, 2020. [ Stacy Lome ]

When asked how national politics are relevant to the nonpartisan, five-person City Council, Thomas said he wanted to point out the policy differences between himself and Beckman.

Related: Who’s listening? Clearwater City Council Seat 3 candidates all say they are.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had somebody who was as liberal of a candidate as Kathleen has been,” Thomas said in an interview, noting Beckman has received at least one campaign donation from a local Democratic Women’s Club.

Thomas also said he was worried Beckman would vote to raise taxes, and that she was unprepared to handle the city’s budget.

In response, Beckman said she was focused on local issues.

“I just want to remain positive and focused on the issues that are important to Clearwater residents," the retired schoolteacher said. “I am fully prepared to do my research and due diligence and make informed decisions to represent residents’ needs."

Another part of Thomas’ leaflet mentioned an issue that has little to do with any current Clearwater policy.

“Conservative Scott Thomas will stand with President Trump to ensure Clearwater never becomes a Sanctuary City,” the mailer reads.

The term “sanctuary city” has no legal definition, but it usually refers to a municipality’s level of cooperation with immigration authorities. In Florida, that cooperation usually happens in county jails, where jail staffers can notify federal agents if they believe an inmate is undocumented. That process occurs locally at the Pinellas County jail.

Clearwater does not have a jail, Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter noted.

“We don’t necessarily have anything to do with that process," Slaughter said in an interview.

However, Slaughter noted that if the City Council were to make it a priority, Clearwater could begin to partner more with federal agencies on immigration enforcement.

Thomas, a human resources professional who has served in the past on a small school board in Pennsylvania, defended his mailer.

“There’s no danger right now," he said of Clearwater becoming a so-called sanctuary city. “But there is a fear that if she becomes elected, there are some real radical ideas that she has."

Also running for Seat 3 are the incumbent, Dr. Bob Cundiff, and insurance brokerage firm owner Bud Elias.

2020 CLEARWATER CITY ELECTIONS

City voters will decide three City Council races and six ballot referendums. Here’s what voters need to know:

MAIL BALLOTS: To request one, send an email to mailballot@votepinellas.com or call (727) 464-8683. The deadline to request a mail ballot is March 7 at 5 p.m.

EARLY VOTING: Runs from March 7-15. Weekday early voting is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Weekend hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To find locations, go to votepinellas.com.

ELECTION DAY: March 17. Polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

VOTER’S GUIDE: The Tampa Bay Times asked the 13 candidates to respond to nine questions. Here’s where they stand on the issues.

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