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Creative Loafing endorses Lisa Wheeler-Brown and the result could be game-changing

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In a fairly unusual move, Creative Loafing has made endorsements in the St. Pete City Council races. Not surprisingly, they’re behind incumbents Charlie Gerdes and Steve Kornell. The decision to endorse Lisa Wheeler-Brown over Will Newton, however, came with a little more deliberation.

CL threw together an ad hoc editorial board comprised of editor David Warner, News and Politics editor Kate Bradshaw and managing editor Scott Harrell. They listed myriad reasons why both candidates were excellent, writing that “the circus that has surrounded this races has obscured [that] very real truth.”

“We are most excited by the prospect of a fresh voice, one with a drive to achieve and a visceral sense of the everyday challenges that face the communities of District 7,” Bradshaw wrote of the group’s decision to put its weight behind Wheeler-Brown.

The two candidates are very similar in their goals for the District 7 community they seek to represent. Both want to improve educational outcomes, job opportunities and affordable housing.

Even their ideas for getting there are often similar.

The only real differences between the two lies in their delivery styles – Newton is soft-spoken, but stern while Wheeler-Brown is passionate – and their views on the Rays.

It might not seem that big of a deal to nab an endorsement from an alt-weekly, but this one could be key for Wheeler-Brown during the final push before Election Day Tuesday.

That’s because the CL endorsement validates one she’s already received.

I wrote recently that voters should take with a grain of salt any endorsement issued by the Times’ editorial board because, when it comes to St. Pete elections this year, they base that important decision on one issue – the Tampa Bay Rays.

But CL calls them out for that. They lambast the decision to “excoriate the candidacy of an accomplished incumbent based almost entirely on the Rays issue.” The CL ed board also points out the Rays are hardly an issue in Kornell’s South St. Pete District 5.

Bradshaw plays down the Rays issue not just in Kornell’s race where he faces a bombastic, “God fearing family man,” but also in the Wheeler-Brown/Newton matchup.

What that means is Creative Loafing is taking to its readers a reason to vote for Wheeler-Brown that doesn’t include the Rays deal.

The Tampa Bay Times endorsed Wheeler-Brown based on the Rays. So did the Tampa Tribune. That is until news of a whirlwind of campaign finance missteps led them to change their endorsement to Newton.

That called the relevance of a Times endorsement into question. That one paper took seriously a trove of troubling bookkeeping activity while another didn’t was curious.

But CL mentions the $500 for dental work paid for by Wheeler-Brown’s campaign coffers and almost immediately dismisses it. They acknowledge the mistakes make her “green,” but offer a vote of confidence that she will be up for the task.

And they apparently didn’t come to the conclusion lightly – unlike the Times.

“This was not an easy decision for any of us, and we went back and forth many times on our choice,” Warner wrote in a disclaimer that he had donated to Wheeler-Brown’s campaign before Newton entered the race. “We fully believe that either candidate would be a valuable addition to City Council, and hope that, if Wheeler-Brown wins, Will Newton will run again in the future.

In what will likely be an extremely close race, this endorsement may be the push Wheeler-Brown needs to cross the finish line on top.

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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