1. St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg City Council incumbents hope to thwart challengers in next week's primary

Two St. Petersburg City Council seats in next week’s primary are sought by incumbents. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Aug. 20

ST. PETERSBURG — Two City Council seats that are up for election in next week's primary are being defended by incumbents.

Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman of District 7, which is south and west of downtown adjacent to Gulfport, seeks to thwart three challengers, including two political newcomers. Ed Montanari of District 3, which includes Snell Isle and Shore Acres, is defending his seat from two opponents, neither of whom have run before.

Those seats are two of the four up for grabs this year. One other race, in District 5, will appear on the Tuesday primary ballot. That race doesn't have an incumbent, as council member Steve Kornell is term-limited. The top two candidates for each seat will move on to the Nov. 5 general election.

The fourth race, for the District 1 seat, includes only two candidates, so it does not appear on the primary ballot but rather will go straight to the general. Neither of those candidates are incumbents, as council member Charlie Gerdes is term-limited.


St. Petersburg's District 5 City Council race off and running with candidate forum

St. Pete's District 5 race has five candidates with five points of view

Wheeler-Bowman, 51, looks to hold off hopefuls Eritha "Akile" Cainion, Chico Cromartie and Sarah Elizabeth Moore. Wheeler-Bowman became civically engaged after her son was murdered in 2008, helping to solve the crime and put the killer in prison. She later become the president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations before winning the District 7 seat in 2015.

She considers affordable housing, public safety and transportation her top three priorities. She favors creating an affordable housing trust fund and suggested creating a "community benefit agreement" for the Tropicana Field site, by which revenues from future development there could benefit other parts of the city. She said St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway is doing a good job, and supports bus rapid transit.

On the Tampa Bay Rays, she said she was not thrilled with how the team rolled out its split-season Montreal concept. She previously voted to allow the team to look for a new stadium site in Tampa, and she said she would again support letting the team do that.

Cainion, 22, ran unsuccessfully in 2017 for the District 6 seat. A member of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, Cainion is running on a platform of "making the south side black again." She said her three priorities are securing reparations and economic development to the black community, ending gentrification and fixing the "anti-black rigged" election system in the city.

She said she wants the city to relinquish control of the Trop land to the black community, believes the police are an "occupying force" of the black community and wants to create a trolley system to service the city's southern districts. She has also said high-rise development should stop downtown.

Cromartie, 47, says he is a real estate investor. His platform includes capping rental prices, building a monorail system and investing in solar energy.

Cromartie was convicted of armed robbery in 1991 and cocaine possession in 2004, state records show, and served a combined decade years in prison. He posts on Facebook about his opposition to homosexuality, which he says is a choice.

Moore, 22, is a recent Florida State University graduate and a former communications intern at the state capital. She was hired this month as an analyst at law firm Baker McKenzie. She said she is running to inject a younger voice. Her top three priorities are economic development, low income housing and youth outreach.

According to recent financial reports, Wheeler-Bowman and Cainion are far outpacing Cromartie and Moore in fundraising. Wheeler-Bowman has raised $26,853. She has spent $24,151. Cainion has raised $20,650 and spent $10,698. Moore has raised less than $700, and Cromartie hasn't raised any.

In District 3, Montanari, 61, hopes to hold off Orlando Acosta and Zachary Collins. Montanari, an American Airlines pilot, is the lone conservative voice on the progressive City Council and said he is wary of the city over-borrowing for capital projects. Before running unopposed in 2015, he served on task forces involving Albert Whitted Airport, the Tampa Bay Rays' proposal for a waterfront stadium a decade ago and the future of the pier.

Montanari's primary concerns include maintaining the quality of life in the city, by planting more trees, protecting the waterfront and investing in local infrastructure. He also said he wants to increase economic opportunity in the city and "look to the future" — planning for issues like population growth and transportation. He is not in favor of the Rays splitting the season with Montreal, but said he has an "open mind" about ways to keep the team in St. Petersburg. He says he is proud of the performance of the St. Petersburg Police Department and does not favor officers wearing body-worn cameras, though he does support exploring gun-mounted cameras that are activated when officers draw their weapon.

Acosta, a first-time candidate, is staking out a position far to the left of the incumbent. A son of Colombian immigrants, Acosta, 48, had a career in the U.S. Air Force. Now he's an entrepreneur, having started a military consultancy.

Climate change is one of Acosta's main concerns, and he does not support sharing the Rays with Montreal if the team will demand public dollars for a new stadium in Tampa Bay. He has also said cities should not be pre-empted by the state from enacting restrictions on guns.

Collins, 36, a professional brewer, is also running for the first time. His priorities are protecting the environment — specifically by repairing or replacing private lateral sewer lines — addressing housing affordability and keeping big league baseball in St. Petersburg.

Montanari has raised $71,960 and spent $31,869. Acosta has raised $12,580 and spent $10,890. Collins has raised less than $500.

The District 5 race features Beth Connor, Trenia Cox, Deborah Figgs-Sanders, Phil Garret and Anne Hirsch.

Robert Blackmon and John Hornbeck vie for District 1.


Council candidate tweeted he 'puts the sugar in sugar daddy.' Now he's sorry.

St. Petersburg City Council candidate drops out over vulgar tweets

Contact Josh Solomon at or (813) 909-4613. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.


  1. Reclaimed water rates are increasing 6 percent in St. Petersburg.
    Potable, waste and reclaimed water fees will all increase. So will garbage fees, though the stormwater fee will drop for some.
  2. Joshua Russell, 26, faces a charge of aggravated manslaughter, according to deputies. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A dose of kratom caused the caretaker to fall asleep for hours inside a hot minivan with the disabled man in the back seat, investigators said.
  3. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke Friday about a child protection investigator who was arrested on charges of falsifying reports. JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon
    It’s the second time in two years a Pinellas child protection investigator has faced falsification charges.
  4. The city is accepting applications for its Commercial Revitalization Program. The city has allocated $175,000 for the program this year.
  5. Plans for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Board of Commissioners referendum March 12 call for a $100 increase in the annual assessment for single-family units. Tom Germond
    The winner will fill the seat of a board member who moved.
  6. The Florida Association of Museums has named St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman its Outstanding Public Official for 2019.
    The organization recognizes those who contribute to the museum profession.
  7. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  8. More construction is on the way to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, thanks to $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate the airport’s runway. (Times file photo)
    The work is expected to be complete by spring 2021.
  9. Former St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love hired Elle Resources as the agency's media and communications firm in 2018. The firm, owned by Michelle Ligon, was paid $5,000 every month, twice the limit on the fixed-price contract, a review by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development found. The review found eight violations of federal regulations and the federal agency has given the Housing Authority until Oct. 29 to explain the violations and come up with a corrective action plan.
    A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development review finds eight violations of federal rules at the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, including “serious lapses” in the award and payment of...
  10. A man uses the bike lane on First Avenue S in 2018. A bicyclist was struck and killed while using the crosswalk in the 2800 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Street N, where the city installed new bike lanes. [TIMES (2018)]  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The crash took place on a stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N the city has tried to make safer to bike and walk on.