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Ed Montanari campaign kick-off mirrors strong early support

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Supporters of Ed Montanari flooded into 400 Beach Seafood in downtown St. Pete Tuesday evening for the City Council candidate’s campaign kick-off event.

At least 75 people, including business leaders and owners, nonprofit heads and former elected officials, snacked on seafood spread and various hors-d’oeuvres in what was a melting pot of personalities.

The showing was representative of Montanari’s initial support for his District 3 City Council bid. Even before his first campaign event where Democrats rubbed elbows with prominent local Republicans, Montanari had an impressive showing of bipartisan support.

City Council member Amy Foster was an early supporter. So too was Darryl Rouson. Both are prominent Democrats. Montanari is a well-liked Republican.

“I supported Bill Dudley against Ed Montanari last time around because I felt that Ed was a little too conservative for my taste,” said Democrat Hal Friedman, referencing Montanari’s failed bid eight years ago in which he lost to Dudley by fewer than 300 votes. “But I’ve watched him in meetings on committees and I love the way he listens and lets the other people on the committee have their say.”

Dudley was also on hand to offer his support for Montanari’s bid to replace him on City Council. Dudley is not seeking re-election due to term limits.

“He’s a good man. He’s really put his heart and soul in it,” Dudley said. “I can’t think of anybody better.”

Montanari is the first to jump into the race for Dudley’s Northeast St. Pete District and so far no one has indicated they’d be running against him.

“I can’t think of anybody who would run against him,” Dudley said. “And that’s good.”

Regardless, Montanari’s team was on hand making sure they built a solid repertoire of email addresses and phone numbers to solicit support. During his speech to supporters, Montanari thanked a host of people for coming out to his kick-off event. Those included former state Rep. Jim Frishe, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher and countless friends and family members.

Montanari was introduced by former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who is one of many serving on Montanari’s host committee.

“There are still tremendous issues facing the city. We still have budgetary restraints. There’s really few people at city hall paying attention to the budget. Ed wants to pay attention,” Foster said after drawing laughter over a Pier joke.

“When I was running for mayor before the guy who ran against me said he was going to build the Pier in 18 months and he was going to resolve the Rays issue and, my point being – and I’m not trying to take a crack at Rick Kriseman,” Foster said. “I think he’s done a remarkable job under very heavy, heavy situations. It’s not as easy as I made it look.”

Also on hand to offer support was the Realtor who sold Montanari his house in 2001. She said you can tell a lot about a person by how they handle real estate transactions.

“Some people are so emotional and others are like, ‘wait a minute, let’s look at this,’” said Re/Max Realtor Brenda Fullerton. “He’s the kind to think things through before making decisions.”

Montanari echoed that in his own remarks.

“I think good leaders always need to ask a question — How can we better serve here? Asking that question and listening to the answer creates an abundance of compassion and creative thinking from our residents,” Montanari said.

He even referenced former Mayor Rick Baker’s book, The Seamless City.

“Rick described a city that has an attitude that we’re all in it together; where we work towards advancing a city and addressing problems together and moving forward,” Montanari said. “And that’s what I want to do.”

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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