There were five seats on the Pinellas County commission up for grabs this election cycle, but three candidates were elected without opposition — incumbents Rene Flowers and Kathleen Peters, and Chris Latvala, a state representative who takes over the District 5 seat after some controversial maneuvering in Tallahassee. That leaves two primaries — both among Republicans. District 2 is an at-large seat voted on by all registered voters in Pinellas. In District 4, only registered voters within its boundaries in north Pinellas can cast a ballot. Commissioners serve four-year terms and are paid $105,800 a year.
District 2 (At large) Republican: Brian Scott
Brian Scott is the best qualified Republican in this primary to go on to face incumbent Democrat Pat Gerard in the Nov. 8 general election. Lowering taxes, re-envisioning transit service and keeping the county affordable for everyone are among his priorities. Scott, 54, believes that “less government is better than more government” and would like to cut excess spending and wasteful programs.
Scott, president and owner of Escot Bus Lines, said his business experience will help him bring a commonsense approach to the board of county commissioners. Scott, who listed his net worth at $10.2 million, has a good grasp of the major issues facing the county and is especially strong on transportation. He has been a board member of the Florida Motorcoach Association and the International Motorcoach Association. He sat on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority from 2012-2018 and is currently a member of the citizens advisory committee of Forward Pinellas and the county’s Parks and Advisory Conservation Resources board.
Scott has received significantly more in campaign donations than his opponent and has several high-profile endorsements, including from former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and state Rep. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach.
His opponent, Debbie Buschman, is the Lunch Pals coordinator for Pinellas County Schools. She said she is running because “Pinellas County needs a proven leader with unquestioned conservative values and an innovative vision for the future.”
Scott is the more well-rounded candidate and deserves to be the Republican nominee. The Tampa Bay Times recommends Brian Scott in the Republican primary for Pinellas County Commission, District 2.
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District 4 (Open primary): Dave Eggers
Incumbent Republican Dave Eggers has the experience and grasp of the issues facing Pinellas County to make him the top choice in this race. His even temperament makes him an asset on a seven-member board. Eggers, 65, is seeking his third term, having been first elected to the commission in 2014. Previous to that, he was the mayor of Dunedin and a member of the city council. Eggers understands the importance of building regional support around issues like water, transportation and economic development. He has a realistic view of how to support the Tampa Bay Rays while protecting the county’s financial interests. He supported rolling back the property tax rate for the current budget, given how the steep rise in home values increased the tax bills for many property owners. He said he is likely to support lowering the tax rate for the upcoming budget, too.
Eggers faces Heather Aynne Vernillo, an advanced practice registered nurse who owns and runs Vernillo Health & Wellness in Palm Harbor. Her passions are health, safety and the environment. On her website she uses the motto: “Pinellas first. Constitution always. Freedom forever.” “I am a wildlife conservationist and do not believe that North Pinellas needs to become the next Florida metropolis,” she wrote.
This primary is open to all voters because all candidates for this district are registered with one political party.
Eggers has the best interest of Pinellas County at heart and has done a solid job on the commission, even if we haven’t agreed with all of his votes. The Tampa Bay Times recommends Dave Eggers for Pinellas County Commission, District 4.
The recommendation process
Before making a recommendation, the Times Editorial Board asks candidates to fill out questionnaires and sit for an interview. The process can also include running criminal and civil background checks, interviewing candidates’ colleagues and employers, reviewing voting records and financial disclosures, and examining candidates’ past and current positions on relevant issues.
Candidates not recommended by the editorial board are offered an opportunity to reply. Judicial candidates may send replies of up to 150 words by 5 p.m. Aug. 4 to Editor of Editorials Graham Brink at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.