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Charlie Gerdes draws a challenger less than an hour before qualifying deadline

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes will have to campaign to earn another term in office. During the final hour of qualifying for this year’s municipal election a challenger emerged.

The politically engaged Monica Abbott filed to run against Gerdes just after 4 p.m. Monday. The deadline to file was 5.

“I’m not mad,” Gerdes said. “I’m fired up.”

Gerdes said he knew Abbott was an engaged citizen, but was still shocked when he got word she had filed to run against him.

“I thought a couple, three months ago she might do this,” he said.

But with less than an hour before being unceremoniously re-elected Gerdes could see the finish line.

“It’s OK,” he said. “I look forward to getting back out there and campaigning.”

Abbott lives behind the Crystal Bay Hotel on Park Street and Central Avenue. The property has frequently changed ownership and it’s been a consistent struggle to keep it maintained.

Abbott has lobbied to have the property demolished.

Gerdes said he knows she’s also been involved in a couple of different West side neighborhood associations like Azalea.

The kicker in Abbott’s bid for city council – she’s currently suing the city. She filed a lawsuit after a public meeting several months ago in which she was cut off during public comment because her allotted three-minutes were up.

Later another speaker, the outspoken community activist Momma Tee Lassiter, spoke and exceeding the three-minute time limit but was not stopped. Abbott argues it wasn’t fair she was forced to cut her remarks short while another speaker was not.

Gerdes will face Abbott at the ballot box on August 25 for the Primary Election.

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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