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St. Petersburg City Council primary: both incumbents, and some newcomers, advance

Six candidates from the three primary races move on to the Nov. 5 citywide general election.
Trenia Cox, a candidate for St. Pete City Council, earned the most votes in the District 5 race. She advances to the Nov. 5 general election.
Trenia Cox, a candidate for St. Pete City Council, earned the most votes in the District 5 race. She advances to the Nov. 5 general election. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Aug. 27, 2019|Updated Aug. 28, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Voters rewarded incumbents and newcomers alike in Tuesday’s City Council primary election, elevating six candidates to November’s general election.

Two candidates in each of the three races that had primary elections will move on. While only residents in particular council districts were able to vote in the primary, the Nov. 5 general election is citywide.

Unofficial results show voter turnout was about 16.7 percent, with 11,580 ballots cast in all three races.

City Council members serve four-year terms and make $49,281 annually. The races are nonpartisan.

District 3

Incumbent Ed Montanari, 61, an American Airlines pilot and the only conservative voice on City Council, garnered the vast majority of the votes in this race, securing about 71 percent. He had raised the most money of any candidate running, topping $77,000 in contributions. He moves on with a war chest of $33,000.

“I am very proud of the results in today’s election,” Montanari wrote in a text. “It was a true team effort and I am very appreciative of all the support from the residents of District 3. I am looking forward to a positive discussion of how we can make our great city even better for all people.”

He’ll face Orlando Acosta, 48, a former officer in the U.S. Air Force who now runs a defense consultancy. Acosta earned about 20 percent.

“I’m very grateful to all the voters for giving me their approval to move on ahead," said Acosta by phone as he stood outside his home, where he took in the results with volunteers, donors, friends and family. "And I’m looking forward to taking my message of diversity and inclusivity to the rest of the city, and working toward a future that includes and benefits everybody.”

Professional brewer Zac Collins, 36, did not actively raise money. He earned about 9 percent.

District 3 includes Snell Isle and Shore Acres.

District 5

The only primary district without an incumbent, as Council member Steve Kornell is term-limited, District 5 had the most competitive race.

Trenia Cox, 69, who worked as a city planner and had a long career at the Juvenile Welfare Board, captured the most votes, with about 35 percent. She’ll face Deborah Figgs-Sanders, 54, a business consultant and former executive director of the Childs Park YMCA, in the general election. Figgs-Sanders won about 30 percent of the votes.

Deborah Figgs-Sanders waved to drivers on election day at the corner of 54th Avenue S and 31st Street S.
Deborah Figgs-Sanders waved to drivers on election day at the corner of 54th Avenue S and 31st Street S. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]

Cox won despite only raising $13,459, according to her latest financial report. That was significantly less than Beth Connor’s $23,415 and Figgs-Sanders’ $26,810.50, per their latest reports.

“I’m just so ecstatic!" said Cox, reached by phone at her results watch party at the St. Petersburg Country Club, about winning the most votes in the race. “I did not expect that I would. But it happened. It’s amazing.”

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She talked about how hard she’s been working. “Calling, waving, praying, strategizing," she said. “And now it’s time to do it again. And take it to a whole other level.”

Figgs-Sanders, speaking by phone from a watch party at Portofino Italian Restaurant in the Skyway Marina District, said the amount of money she raised means she has a lot of support. Yet the first thing she said to herself when the results rolled in was “Okay, I’ve got to get busy tomorrow.”

A former paralegal and environmental activist, Connor, 54, came in third, winning about 21 percent of the votes.

Philip Garrett, 54, a substitute teacher and former employee at the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s Office, won about 8 percent of the vote, while midwife Anne Lenholt Hirsch, 61, took about 6 percent.

Anne Hirsch greeted voters on election day at Lakewood United Methodist Church.
Anne Hirsch greeted voters on election day at Lakewood United Methodist Church. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]

District 5 includes Lakewood Estates and Pinellas Point.

District 7

Like District 3, District 7 was being defended by an incumbent. Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, 51, handily earned the most votes, securing about 57 percent.

Eritha “Akile” Cainion, 22, a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement and an editor of the movement’s newspaper, the Burning Spear, came in second. She won 24 percent.

Wheeler-Bowman and Cainion will face off in the general election. A recent fundraising surge from Cainion ensured both candidates will head into the general election campaign with roughly the same amount of money on hand: about $7,500, according to their latest financial reports.

Neither candidate could be reached for comment.

The other two candidates in the race, recent college graduate Sarah Elizabeth Moore, 22, and Chico Cromartie, a real estate investor, 47, didn’t actively raise money. Moore earned about 14 percent of the votes while Cromartie won about 5 percent.

District 7 is south and west of downtown and is adjacent to Gulfport.

A fourth race, for the District 1 seat, went straight to the general election, as there are only two candidates, Robert Blackmon and John Hornbeck.