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Everything you need to know about Tuesday’s St. Petersburg municipal election

Where do I vote? Where do I drop off my ballot? Who are the candidates? What are the City Charter amendments? We have you covered.
The St. Petersburg general municipal election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.
The St. Petersburg general municipal election is Tuesday, Nov. 2. [ Ashley Dye ]
Published Oct. 29, 2021|Updated Oct. 29, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — The 2021 St. Petersburg municipal election is upon us. Tuesday is the day.

Who will be the next mayor? Will history be made with the city’s first Black mayor? The city’s first Hispanic on the City Council, or the first democratic socialist on council? How will the city’s charter change?

It’s a lengthy ballot, but don’t get stressed. Here’s a roundup of all the St. Petersburg political coverage, plus some tips on making sure your ballot counts on Tuesday.

How do I vote?

As of Thursday evening, 33,548 voters have dropped off or mailed in their ballot. That’s a turnout of 18.1 percent. The turnout for the last municipal election in 2017 was 39.6 percent. This is a particularly sleepy race.

Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find out where your polling place is here.

It’s too late to mail your mail-in ballot, however completed mail ballots can be dropped off at the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections office in downtown St. Petersburg at 501 1st Ave. N.

If you have received a mail ballot, but you would prefer to vote at your precinct, take your mail ballot (the entire kit) with you to your polling place.

Who’s running for mayor?

For mayor, Ken Welch, 57, and Robert Blackmon, 32. There’s a lot of reading material on them, and they’ve appeared in multiple virtual and in-person debates from housing to the arts.

Our analysis after the August primary found that, despite the mayor’s race being technically nonpartisan, voters went with the candidate of their political party. Blackmon is a Republican and Welch is a Democrat.

Here’s how Welch can win, and here’s how Blackmon can win. Neither one of them has invoked Gov. Ron DeSantis. This is where Blackmon and Welch stand on the issues. They faced off most recently in a debate hosted by Spectrum News 9 and the Tampa Bay Times.

Darden Rice, who finished third in the August primary, endorsed Welch in the general election. The Tampa Bay Rays gave $50,000 to Welch’s campaign.

Both candidates have had controversial past statements surface on social media. Welch said he has evolved since he penned an op-ed in his early 30s when he said he was part of the “Christian Right” and interpreted the Bible as “clearly pro-family and pro-life.” In 2008, Welch said he shared the values of his conservative church that condemned homosexuality.

In his 20s, Blackmon posted vulgar and disparaging remarks about women, Asians and tenants on Facebook. Blackmon has since apologized and said he was “some young idiot writing dumb stuff on the internet.”

Blackmon, who has campaigned for affordable housing, is a landlord who halted evictions of tenants at his properties amid an outcry. He is spending the evening before Election Day at the Blexit 727 Block Party. Blexit stands for Black exit from the Democratic party.

Who’s running for City Council?

There are five City Council races on the ballot, but one has already been decided. Brandi Gabbard’s opponent withdrew from the race, which means she was re-elected by default, though the ballots were already printed out.

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There will be at least three new faces on City Council for Districts 1, 4 and 8. You can read about those races here, here and here. In District 4, union officials and candidate Lisset Hanewicz fired back at candidate Tom Mullins, who dismissed public employee unions as “simply looking for a candidate willing to throw taxpayers under the bus.”

District 6 member Gina Driscoll is the only incumbent facing a challenger. Her opponent is Mhariel Summers.

What are the charter amendments about?

The Charter Review Commission, which convenes every 10 years, proposed seven amendments that appear on the ballot. The first question could change the way St. Petersburg elects City Council members by eliminating city-wide runoff elections and transitioning to single-member districts.

The other six amendments range from creating a Chief Equity Officer position and plan and designating funding for those initiatives. They establish a new process for redistricting and change the timetable of the charter review so it doesn’t interfere with redistricting. One amendment proposes a preamble to the City Charter.

There’s also a referendum up for renewal that gives property tax exemptions to new businesses and expansions of existing businesses that are expected to create new, full-time jobs in St. Petersburg.

Where do I find election coverage?

On Tuesday, we’ll be covering Election Day with reporters throughout the city. Results are expected to appear on the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections website shortly after 7 p.m Follow tampabay.com and St. Petersburg reporter @Colleen_Wright on Twitter for live coverage.

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