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The Clearwater City Council candidate field is set for March elections

Here’s who’s running and how much money they’ve each raised.
A file photo of the old Clearwater City Council. The next council will not meet there, they will decide how to proceed with the city-owned land that will play a prominent role in the $64 million redevelopment of the downtown waterfront. [JIM DAMASKE  |  Tampa Bay Times]
A file photo of the old Clearwater City Council. The next council will not meet there, they will decide how to proceed with the city-owned land that will play a prominent role in the $64 million redevelopment of the downtown waterfront. [JIM DAMASKE | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 27
Updated Nov. 27

CLEARWATER ― It’s not always easy for Clearwater to field a full slate of City Council candidates.

That won’t be a problem during the March 2020 elections. No fewer than 13 candidates have qualified for three city races. Four are running for the open mayor’s Seat 1 occupied by the termed-out George Cretekos; five vie for the open Seat 2 currently held by Jay Polglaze and another four are running for Seat 3, which is currently held by Bob Cundiff. (The incumbent Cundiff is running for re-election.)

The Nov. 15 deadline to qualify for the races has officially come and gone, so let’s survey the field. Reminder: In Clearwater, the mayor is just one seat in the five-person council. All five seats are at-large, or elected by the entire city. Three are up for grabs next year.

Seat 1 - Mayor

Elizabeth “Sea Turtle” Drayer. The Clearwater attorney is running to advocate for the interests of the loggerhead sea turtle species. She raised $20,000 during the first two official fundraising months of the campaign, all from herself.

Frank Hibbard. The former two-term mayor of Clearwater said he’s running because he believes he has has a proven track record of leadership. He’s reported about $91,500 in fundraising for his run so far ― tops in the field.

Bill Jonson. The former four-term city council member said he wants to be mayor so Clearwater residents can have a more responsive government. Jonson has reported about $13,700 in fundraising.

Morton Myers. A small business owner who has family ties to the Church of Scientology, Myers is running in part because he’s concerned about the direction of the $64 million Imagine Clearwater downtown redevelopment project. He’s loaned his campaign $2,100 so far.

Seat 2 - Open

Mark Bunker. A retiree who’s had a long and public history of criticizing the Church of Scientology, Bunker wants to bring that critical voice to the city council. He’s reported about $6,600 in fundraising.

Mike Mannino. The Clearwater native and small business owner has centered his campaign around ''protecting, promoting and preserving" the city. He’s reported about $8,500 in fundraising.

Bruce Rector. A lawyer and former president of Junior Chamber International, Rector is running to make Clearwater a more internationally competitive city. He’s reported about $8,300 in fundraising so far.

Eliseo Santana. A veteran of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Army, Santana wants to bring his eclectic skillset to elected office.

For more than three decades, the retired father of four and grandfather of 13 helped the sprawling law enforcement agency with its technology needs. After he retired, Santana got his Master of Business Administration degree from Schiller International University. In 2016, he ran for Pinellas County School Board.

Santana didn’t win that race, but he said in an interview that the same impulse that drove him to run then is driving him now.

“I want it because I want the future of our community to be solid and strong,” Santana said.

In particular, Santana said he wants to open the lines of communication between local government and various constituencies around the city ― including Hispanic voters like himself. As a member of the council, Santana said he’d work to make Clearwater more friendly to small businesses and to make Imagine Clearwater as successful as possible.

He’s raised about $2,100 for his run so far, records show.

Lina Teixeira. A multilingual small business owner who serves on a number of civic organizations, Teixeira is running to unlock Clearwater’s potential, she says. She’s pulled in $15,800 so far, records show.

Seat 3 - Bob Cundiff is the incumbent

Kathleen Beckman. The retired schoolteacher and active volunteer has made the environment one of her signature issues. She’s reported about $14,500 in contributions.

Bob Cundiff. The incumbent in the race for Seat 3 is running for re-election so he can build on what he says is a record of getting all corners of Clearwater involved in civic life. He’s reported about $3,900 in contributions.

Bud Elias. A onetime chair of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, Elias is running because he wants to see Clearwater government take more initiative. He’s reported about $23,150 in fundraising so far.

Scott Thomas. Even though he’s the youngest candidate in the field at just 29 years old, Thomas brings elected experience to the Seat 3 race. Before moving to Clearwater two years ago, the human resources manager served two terms on the Pottsville Area School Board in Pennsylvania, getting elected for the first time at just 19.

“Me being in the race probably brings the average age to about 60,” Thomas joked.

Some of the main issues Thomas is focusing on include making Clearwater more business friendly and bringing a renewed government focus to the Clearwater neighborhoods outside downtown.

Thomas said although the city has done a good job of keeping residents safe, it could be better about communicating with them. For instance, Thomas said he’s not sure Clearwater residents have been properly consulted throughout the Imagine Clearwater downtown redevelopment process.

“I think that more public input is always good,” Thomas said.

He’s reported about $3,600 in fundraising contributions.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Clearwater police Maj. David Dalton stands with Yael Hershfield, deputy director of the Anti-Defamation League's Florida region, after receiving the league's law enforcement award Tuesday in Palm Beach. The organization recognized Dalton for “his commitment to ensuring that law enforcement personnel adhere to the highest standards of policing while treating all citizens fairly and with respect," according to a news release. [Courtesy of David Dalton] [Courtesy of David Dalton]
    Clearwater Maj. David Dalton received the Anti-Defamation League’s law enforcement award for “his commitment to ensuring that law enforcement personnel adhere to the highest standards of policing...
  2. All 13 candidates running for three Clearwater City Council seats participated in a forum at St. Petersburg College Clearwater library on Dec. 7. [TRACEY MCMANUS  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    With nine candidates running for two council seats and four vying for mayor, the season’s first forum served as an introduction.
  3. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
The closed sign hangs on the entrance of the tract at Oldsmar BMX, 3120 Tampa Road, in Oldsmar on Friday, May 3, 2019. The world famous BMX track in Oldsmar shut down suddenly earlier this year. The city cited safety concerns after a routine building inspection, and a subsequent report confirmed that serious structural issues in the track's walls exist. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The track remains closed indefinitely.
  4. Cars pack Interstate 275 south just past downtown Tampa. Downtown Tampa is the loudest neighborhood in the Tampa metropolitan area, which is the loudest metro in the nation, according to a Zillow analysis based on noise-mapping data collected in urban and rural areas nationwide by the National Park Service. (Times (2010) [Times (2010)]
    The online real estate company used sound-mapping information collected by the National Park Service (yes, really) to compile its noisiest metros ranking.
  5. Prospective rivals to Apollo Global Management had until 11:59 p.m. Monday to submit a competing bid for Tech Data during what is known as a "go-shop" period. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Prospective bidders had until 11:59 p.m. Monday to submit competing offers for Tech Data during what is known as a “go-shop” period.
  6. Largo police are looking for a man accused of sexually battering and robbing a woman inside a massage business on E Bay Drive on Dec. 8. [Largo Police Department]
    The incident took place on Sunday and police are searching for a suspect.
  7. St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow warms up before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field Aug. 17, 2017. Clearwater is seeking a $79.7 million renovation of Spectrum Field and the Carpenter training complex used by the Philadelphia Phillies and Clearwater Threshers. [DOUGLAS CLIFFORD  |  Times]
    The city faces a number of landmines.
  8. This rendering shows Scientology's proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a 3,600-seat auditorium with an all-glass facade at the corner of Garden Avenue and Court Street in downtown Clearwater. [Courtesy City of Clearwater]
    Plans for L. Ron Hubbard Hall go back 26 years. If constructed, it would have more seats than Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall.
  9. Four board members at Horizon House co-op had their locks targeted by a vandal Thanksgiving week. Clearwater police are currently investigating the incident. [Edward Schmoll]
    Four members of the Horizon House HOA board had their front-door locks vandalized during the Thanksgiving holiday.
  10. Jamie Harden of Creative Sign Designs and Maryann Ferenc of Mise en Place discuss priorities for the Tampa Bay Chamber for the coming year. Harden is the outgoing chairman of the chamber. Ferenc is the incoming chairwoman. [RICHARD DANIELSON | Times]
    Leadership of the organization, formerly the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, also says it could have handled its recent name change better.
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