1. Florida Politics

Competition is high for Pinellas County Commission seats

Published Jun. 21, 2014

The races are officially on for three Pinellas commission seats.

Fifteen candidates qualified by the deadline Friday. Three seek to unseat Republicans Norm Roche and John Morroni. The rest make up the crowded field vying to replace Republican Susan Latvala, who is retiring after 14 years on the board.

Roche, 52, of Clearwater wants to keep his District 2 seat for a second term. His first hurdle is a primary with state Rep. Ed Hooper, 66, also of Clearwater. Hooper can't seek re-election to his House seat because of term limits.

The primary winner will face Democrat Pat Gerard, the 64-year-old mayor of Largo, in the Nov. 4 general election.

District 2 is an at-large seat, so every registered county voter gets to cast a ballot.

Morroni, 58, has represented District 6 since 2000, and his fate will be decided in the Aug. 26 primary against Tom Rask, the only other candidate to qualify. Rask, 49, of Seminole owns Logical Sites, a Web publishing company, and has become an outspoken county critic.

All voters in District 6, which generally covers Pinellas Park, Seminole, northeast St. Petersburg and south beaches, may vote in this race regardless of party affiliation.

Latvala represents District 4, which includes Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, East Lake, Tarpon Springs and Oldsmar. The district's Republican voters have the most homework to do because seven candidates will compete in the primary.

They are Dave Eggers, 57, mayor of Dunedin and owner of Centerpoint Realty; Johnny Johnson, 58, a retired Tarpon Springs dentist; Tim Keffalas, 59, of Tarpon Springs, owner of Automotive Expressions, a graphic design and printing company; Wanda Kimsey, 59, of Tarpon Springs, a retired administrative assistant to the commission; Macho Liberti, 35, of Palm Harbor, a Largo firefighter and emergency medical technician; Peter Nehr, 61, of Tarpon Springs, a former state representative; and Jim Ronecker, 49, an Oldsmar council member and owner of On Demand Printing.

The winner will face Mark Weinkrantz, 57, an airline pilot and East Lake fire commissioner, in the general election, along with two no-party candidates. Marcus Harrison, 56, of Palm Harbor is a consultant specializing in electrical systems. Carl Folkman, 48, of Crystal Beach is president of Florida Wine & Spirits.

Pinellas Republican Chairman Michael Guju called the seven-candidate primary "a bit of a free-for-all" but said many are qualified for the job.

"We're lucky to have that," Guju said.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.