ST. PETERSBURG — Today is the day. St. Petersburg’s 189,359 active and eligible voters can decide which candidates for mayor and three City Council seats will be on the November general election ballot.
That is, if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s primary election, thus avoiding a runoff. Nine candidates are vying for the mayor’s office. Three of the five open City Council seats have more than two candidates running, and those races will have district-level primaries this month, with the top two vote-getters in each district moving on to a citywide general election.
How do I vote?
As of Monday, more than 33,000 mail-in ballots had already been cast in the St. Petersburg primary, equal to about 18 percent of all eligible voters. That’s a dramatic drop from the early participation in the 2017 primary, when about 47 percent of mail ballots were returned days before the election.
Those who plan to vote in person on Tuesday can do so from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at their assigned precinct. Polling places for the municipal election may be different than those for county elections. Voters can visit VotePinellas.com and click on the “Find Your Precinct” button to find their voting location, or they can call the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office at 727-464-8683.
Voters who have not yet voted their vote-by-mail ballot should not put it in the mail at this point, as ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday to be counted. Instead, voters can drop off their completed mail ballots at one of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office locations: 13001 Starkey Road in Largo; 315 Court St., Room 117, in Clearwater; or 501 First Ave. North in St. Petersburg.
Sample ballots can be found at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website, VotePinellas.com. St. Petersburg’s website has a map of district boundaries on its website at egis.stpete.org/citymain/. Residents can also find boundary maps by district on the City Council page of the city’s website, stpete.org.
Voters who receive a vote-by-mail ballot can still opt to vote in person. A voter choosing to do this should bring their mail ballot with them to the polling place and surrender it to an election worker, the elections office said. But if a voter does not bring the mail ballot with them, they can still vote in person if election workers can confirm that the voter has not already voted by mail.
Find more information on how to vote here.
Fireworks, a crowded field — and apathy — in the mayoral race
The mayor’s race has intensified over the summer. A group affiliated with candidate Darden Rice said in a flier mailed to voters that opponent Ken Welch had ties to “Trump supporters” and “major Trump allies,” which Welch says is a “false attack” trying to paint him as a Trump supporter. And Welch’s camp pointed out that Rice has also taken money from “Republicans and developers.”
Candidate Wengay Newton accused Welch of racism based on a text message in which Welch referred to former Mayor Rick Baker as “this massa.” Welch has denied that he had any racist intent and called Newton’s attack a “desperate attempt to smear my campaign.”
Meanwhile, candidate Robert Blackmon has come under fire from some tenants and advocates for filing eviction proceedings against three people living in apartments he owns. He dropped the eviction proceedings in July and has said he has a track record of increasing St. Petersburg’s supply of quality affordable housing.
Blackmon, who is also a sitting City Council member, said circulating screenshots of Facebook posts he appeared to make with vulgar and disparaging remarks about women, Asians and tenants “do not reflect who I am today, what I stand for or how I will conduct myself as St. Petersburg’s next mayor.”
Eight candidates will appear on the ballot in the mayor’s race, and Michael S. Levinson is running as a write-in candidate. The Tampa Bay Times has written profiles on all the candidates:
Robert Blackmon: St. Petersburg mayoral run about ideas, not personalities
Michael Ingram: Could this 20-year-old be St. Petersburg’s next mayor?
Wengay Newton: Newton is passionate, persistent, combative
Marcile Powers: With an open heart, Powers runs for St. Petersburg mayor
Michael S. Levinson: Brings unorthodox ideas to mayoral race
Though there’s a lot of drama in this race as the first open primary since 2009, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for voters. It could be because there’s a lot going on between COVID-19′s resurgence, red tide and a new school year rung in by mask debates. Or, it could be because there are too many candidates to choose from, and voters aren’t particularly jazzed about any one candidate.
Regardless, donations still pour into the mayor’s race, particularly among developers. St. Petersburg’s next mayor is going to have a large influence on the future development of this growing city — which makes it unsurprising, perhaps, that real estate companies, developers and investors have taken an active interest in the race’s front-runners.
Who’s running for City Council?
There will be elections this year for five City Council seats. Three of them will have primaries this month. Because the other two races each have only two candidates, those candidates will go straight to the November general election.
Retired dentist Ed Carlson, financial advisor Copley Gerdes, consultant and breast-cancer advocate Bobbie Shay Lee and attorney John Hornbeck are facing off in District 1. That election is happening two years ahead of schedule because Blackmon announced he would step down from the seat to run for mayor.
It’ll be a busy ballot in District 4, with five candidates: Tech entrepreneur Jarib Figueredo, lawyer-turned-neighborhood association president Lisset Hanewicz, bartender Clifford Hobbs III, investment banker Tom Mullins and private equity consultant Doug O’Dowd.
The four candidates running in District 8 are former council member Jeff Danner, teacher and activist Richie Floyd, optometrist Dane Kuplicki and small business owner Jamie Mayo.
Where do I find election results?
Stay tuned for coverage ahead of the November general election. That ballot will be long, featuring the runoff races for mayor and City Council plus city-wide City Council races in districts 2 and 6, which pit each incumbent against a sole challenger. That ballot will also have several city charter amendments up for a vote.