Brandi Gabbard wins St. Pete City Council race by default

Kyle Hall, the only other opponent in the race, withdrew on Sept. 14, guaranteeing Gabbard victory
St. Petersburg City Council Member Brandi Gabbard (left).
St. Petersburg City Council Member Brandi Gabbard (left).
Published Sept. 17, 2021|Updated Sept. 17, 2021

With more than a month to go before the general election, City Councilwoman Brandi Gabbard won reelection to District 2 in north St. Pete after her only opponent withdrew from the race.

Kyle Hall, a small business owner and former U.S. Marine, submitted a notice of his withdrawal to the City Clerk earlier this week. In the notice, dated Tuesday, he did not explain why he decided to end his campaign.

As of the latest finance report, Gabbard had raised $37,802 for her campaign. Hall had raised about $1,000, and had not brought in any donations since mid-July. Hall did not return requests for comment.

Gabbard said she’s excited to get back to work and enjoyed the opportunity to talk with voters as she campaigned.

“While I think it’s unfortunate that they did not get an opportunity to cast their vote, nonetheless I am confident that I would have been able to earn their vote,” Gabbard said.

Chan Srinivasa, the St. Petersburg City Clerk, said the city’s election charter clears the way for Gabbard, as now the only candidate qualified, for assured victory. Though ballots have already been printed with Hall’s name, votes in that race won’t be counted, Srinivasa said.

The city’s charter outlines the procedure for when a candidate withdraws from a race, but none of the circumstances account for when a primary election was never held because only two candidates qualified. Srinivasa reached out to the city’s legal department asking for an opinion on what to do.

The closest provision in the charter provides rules for placing a third qualified candidate on the ballot or letting voters elect to have a new primary, but Assistant City Attorney Brett Pettigrew wrote that wasn’t the case in this race. He wrote that because only two candidates qualified and no primary election was held, it is as if “the withdrawn candidate had not qualified in the first place,” according to the opinion.

Gabbard will be sworn in at the first City Council meeting in 2022. She was first elected to the Council in 2017, and represents District 2, which covers the north end of St. Petersburg and the Gandy Boulevard area. The district covers east of 28th Street North, north of 77th Avenue North, as well as some communities north of 62nd Ave N, and it bordered by the bay.

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Contributed to DocumentCloud by Michael Van Sickler (Tampa Bay Times) • View document or read text

An unopposed candidate getting elected has happened before, Srinivasa said. District 3 Councilman Ed Montanari was the only qualified candidate in 2015, so he was elected without his name ever appearing on the ballot, Srinivasa said.

Gabbard posted a video to Facebook on Thursday announcing her victory in light of Hall’s campaign termination. Her campaign page also shared details for an October 12 victory party.

“I am immensely grateful that I can continue to be a voice for St. Pete values,” Gabbard said in the video.

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Though city elections are nonpartisan, Hall described himself as a conservative. Gabbard is a registered Democrat.

Hall grew up in Hudson and joined the Marine Corp in 2011, according to his website. On his LinkedIn profile, he lists himself as the CEO of PayKings, a payment processing company for groups that may otherwise be rejected, such as pawn shops, adult entertainment and merchants who sell goods with hemp and cannabis.

Gabbard grew up in Indiana but has been in St. Petersburg since 2003, where she works as a real estate broker and served as president of the Pinellas Realtor Organization. On her website, she lists affordable housing, small business success and quality of life initiatives as some of her top priorities.