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Deborah Figgs-Sanders takes razor-thin win in St. Pete’s District 5 council election

Deborah Figgs-Sanders, who was heavily backed by St. Petersburg’s Democratic establishment, narrowly defeats Trenia Cox to win her first-term to City Council.
St. Petersburg City Council candidate Deborah Figgs-Sanders gives the thumbs up to motorists at the intersection of 54th Avenue S and 31 Street S while campaigning for the District 5 seat during Tuesday's election. She won the seat by a thin margin.
St. Petersburg City Council candidate Deborah Figgs-Sanders gives the thumbs up to motorists at the intersection of 54th Avenue S and 31 Street S while campaigning for the District 5 seat during Tuesday's election. She won the seat by a thin margin. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Nov. 6, 2019
Updated Nov. 7, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Deborah Figgs-Sanders narrowly defeated Trenia Cox in the race for City Council’s open District 5 seat, taking nearly 51 percent of the vote.

The District 5 race was the closest of the four races on Tuesday, as it was during August’s primary election, when Cox bested Figgs-Sanders by five percentage points.

ELECTION RESULTS: Find all of Election Night’s winners and losers at The Buzz.

RELATED: St. Petersburg District 5 candidates offer similar views on city

In that respect, Tuesday victory was a come-from-behind victory for Figgs-Sanders, who will take over from outgoing council member Steve Kornell to represent Lakewood Estates and Pinellas Point.

“We came from behind, but we did it," she said. "You know how they say, 'It doesn’t matter where you start, but how you finish.”

The race for District 5 turned into somewhat of a fight along party lines, even though both Figgs-Sanders and Cox are registered Democrats.

Figgs-Sanders collected Democratic support, while Cox was endorsed by former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker and Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters, both Republicans. She was also advised by State Rep. Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican.

“I continued to run with integrity,” Figgs-Sanders, 54, said. "I continued to focus on the issues. I continued to make the community my No. 1 focus.”

Cox, 69, did not return a request for comment.

St. Petersburg City Council candidate Trenia Cox, left, lost the District 5 race to Deborah Figgs-Sanders.
St. Petersburg City Council candidate Trenia Cox, left, lost the District 5 race to Deborah Figgs-Sanders. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Both candidates brought extensive resumes of public service to the campaign. Cox was once a city planner and spent nearly 20 years at the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. In retirement, she chairs the statewide Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council. She was appointed to the group in 2015 by then-Gov. Rick Scott and reappointed in 2017. She also serves on the Pinellas Homeless Leadership Board.

Figgs-Sanders runs a business consultancy and is on the citizens advisory committee of the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area. She is a former executive director of the Childs Park YMCA and served on the city’s volunteer Civilian Police Review Committee.

Both women also ran on similar platforms, prioritizing affordable housing, infrastructure investment and sustainability and environmental protection. Figgs-Sanders also ran on a promise to deliver programs and services directed at the city’s youth.

All council members serve four-year terms and make $49,281 annually. Figgs-Sanders will take office in January.

2019 ST. PETERSBURG ELECTION RESULTS

DISTRICT 1: Robert Blackmon handily wins St. Pete City Council District 1 race

DISTRICT 3: St. Pete council member Ed Montanari holds off District 3 challenger

DISTRICT 7: Lisa Wheeler-Bowman easily wins re-election in St. Pete’s District 7 council race

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