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Ken Welch to launch fourth re-election campaign

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch is officially launching his re-election campaign next week. Welch will be meeting with supporters at the Hangar Restaurant located at 540 First Street SE Wednesday, February 10.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor will be on hand as a special guest, though an invitation sent to prospective donors makes clear she “is not asking for funds or donations” as per campaign finance rules.

Welch has already built an impressive host committee consisting of several current and former mayors. Rick Kriseman from St. Pete, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn and Gulfport’s Sam Henderson are supporting Welch. So too is former Mayor Bill Foster. While Kriseman, Buckhorn and Henderson are all Democrats Foster is a Republican.

Former Governor and current Congressional candidate Charlie Crist and former gubernatorial and congressional candidate Alex Sink have also joined Welch’s host committee as well as St. Pete City Councilors Darden Rice, Karl Nurse, Lisa Wheeler-Brown, Steve Kornell and Charlie Gerdes.

Welch is also drawing support from School Board member Rene Flowers, Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman, former Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stewart and PSTA citizen board member Ben Diamond.

Several high-profile community activists and leaders have also joined on including Jeff Copeland, Martha Lenderman, Johnny Bardine, Scott Wagman, Ray Neri, Craig Sher, Bob Devin Jones, Gwendolyn Reese, Watson Haynes, Clarence Williams, Kenny Irby and John Evans.

First elected to the County Commission in 2000, Welch is currently serving his fourth four-year term.

Welch is a former accounting, Information Technology, and Financial Systems Administration specialist for Florida Power, now Duke Energy. He also served as Technology Manager for Welch Accounting & Tax Services, a family-owned business.

Welch is a lifelong St. Pete resident. He graduated from Lakewood High School and went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of South Florida. Welch also earned a master’s in business administration from Florida A&M University.

In addition to serving residents of Pinellas County as a County Commissioner, Welch also serves on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the county’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the Business Technology Services Board, Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization and the advisory committee for Pinellas Transportation, among other services.

Welch is facing an opponent this year. Retired St. Petersburg College worker Sharon McManus filed to run against him as an independent candidate. It’s possible another challenger could jump in the race. Republicans have made regaining a majority on the commission a top 2016 priority.

They’ve already pitted Mike Mikurak against Democrat Charlie Justice. Janet Long, also a Democrat up for re-election this year, has not drawn a challenger yet. According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website, the qualifying period for the election is June 20-24.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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