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St. Pete District 6 voters get their say on City Council hopefuls

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

An eight-person field in the St. Petersburg District 6 City Council race will become a two-person race after Tuesday night.

But it’s far from certain who those two candidates will be, at least until returns begin trickling in starting 7 p.m.

In fact, that’s why St. Pete Polls guru Matt Florell admits he hasn’t done much polling on the race. While Florell held an unscientific poll earlier this month, there were no clear front-runners — and “undecideds” were in the lead.

Perhaps the most diverse region of eight in the entire city, District 6 encompasses constituencies of downtown, the Old Southeast and Midtown, as well as Old Northeast from Ninth Avenue North to the south.

Justin Bean, a 30-year-old businessman, received the imprimatur of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, which called him “the candidate with the best potential for growing into the job.” In a tight, contested election, that “recommendation” as the Times editors dub it, could prove crucially influential.

Bean and real estate investor Robert Blackmon, 28, are the two lone registered Republicans in the nonpartisan race. Blackmon has the backing of former Mayor Bill Foster. He also made national news over a good friend.

Gina Driscoll is the 46-year-old president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and works as a sales manager at the Hampton Inn & Suites downtown. She received perhaps the second biggest endorsement in the race, with the full-on support of current District 6 Councilman Karl Nurse.

“I believe of the large field of candidates Gina Driscoll is the most ready to step into this city council seat due to her years of civic involvement,” Nurse said in July. “Gina is capable of representing the broad range of neighborhoods and has the temperament and drive to be effective on the City Council.”

Corey Givens, Jr. is the 25-year-old president of the Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association. He sits on a variety of boards, including the local chapters of the NAACP, the Sierra Club and the Citizens Advisory Council for the South St. Pete CRA. Givens’ early momentum in the race was stalled regarding a dispute involving a campaign contribution, and it never truly returned.

Jim Jackson is a veteran Democratic Party activist, who, at 72, has previously run twice for the Pinellas County School Board. A former professor of psychology, Jackson has spent his entire career in education, and has lots of ideas on how to improve the system in Pinellas County.

Akile Cainion, 20, has been aggressively blasting the “two Ricks” as being part of the status quo. She has (by far) the most radical agenda of the eight candidates in the race. Cainion argues that St. Petersburg needs to pay reparations to the black community for the historic sins of racism perpetrated on them for decades.

James Scott, 29,  is the favorite of the environmental/progressive crowd. A former student body president at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, he serves as a voting member of Suncoast Club Executive Committee.

Maria Scruggs, 59,  is currently the head of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, as well as an employee with the Orange County Corrections Dept.

Only registered voters within the confines of District 6 can cast a ballot Tuesday, but the entire city will have a chance in November to weigh in on the top two candidates. That’s also when two other council races will be on the ballot.

In District 2, Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless will compete citywide to decide their race. The same is true in District 4, where Council Chair Darden Rice will face re-election against Jerrick Johnston.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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