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Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014

Pinellas elections draw sizeable field


— More than 40 candidates qualified for county-level offices by Friday’s noon filing deadline, with one Pinellas County Commission race attracting 10 contenders.

Most races will have a primary on Aug. 26, and some, including a county commission seat for which two Republicans are the only candidates running, will be decided that day.

Those that will be decided in November will share a ballot with candidates for governor, a constitutional amendment about legalized medical marijuana and a referendum that would raise the countywide sales tax by one cent to fund the Greenlight Pinellas transportation overhaul.

Three county commission seats will be on the primary ballot.

In District 4, which covers north Pinellas, 10 candidates are vying for the seat being vacated by Commissioner Susan Latvala. Seven are Republicans who will square off in August, including Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers, Johnny Johnson, Tim Keffalas, Wanda Kimsey, Macho Liberti, Michael Milhoan, former state Rep. Peter Nehr and Jim Ronecker. Carl Folkman and Marcus Harrison are the two no-party candidates. Mark Weinkrantz, chairman of the East Lake Fire District, is the sole Democrat in the race.

“There aren’t many open commission seats that come open in Pinellas County because there are no term limits for commissioners,” said Nehr, who said he is in favor of term limits.

He said he’s running on a platform that includes opposition to Greenlight Pinellas.

Weinkrantz said he’s running to have a chance to weigh in on everything from EMS service to arts funding, which he supports.

“It’s an opportunity to go ahead and take my game higher,” he said. “There’s a thousand things that need to be addressed.”

Things are much simpler in the race for the District 6 seat, which covers the southern Pinellas beaches, a broad swath of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Seminole. Conservative Republican activist Tom Rask is challenging moderate Republican incumbent John Morroni.

Another incumbent, countywide District 2 Commissioner Norm Roche, has a Republican challenger in state Rep. Ed Hooper, who terms out of his seat this year. Roche said he’s not surprised someone considered an “establishment” Republican would challenge him.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that I am the quintessential outsider,” Roche said. “I ask questions.”

Whoever wins that primary faces Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, a Democrat, in November.

There are also five school board elections, four judges and several special district seats on the ballot. School board and judicial elections will be decided in the Aug. 26 primary election.

The school board candidates are: Terry Krassner and Chris Tauchnitz, District 2 at-large; Maureen Ahern and Linda Lerner, District 6; Peggy O’Shea and Kent Curtis, District 3 at-large; Beverly Billiris, John Nygren and Ken Peluso, District 4; and Irene Olive Cates and Rene Flowers, District 7.

Races in which no candidate receives 50 percent or more of the votes will go to a runoff in the Nov. 4 general election.

The voting registration deadline for the primary is July 28. Mail ballots will start going out July 22. Early voting begins Aug. 16. The registration deadline for the general election is Oct. 6. Mail ballots will start going out Sept. 30, and early voting will start on Oct. 20.


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