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Finally! Ed Montanari headed to St. Pete City Council after winning seat without opposition

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Ed Montanari isn’t going to have to spend the $45,000 he reportedly has in his campaign coffers. The commercial airline pilot cruised to an easy victory Monday evening as the qualifying period for St. Pete City Council races came and went Monday with nary a consideration of running against Montanari.

Unopposed, Montanari is now officially City Councilor-elect for District 3. He will replace outgoing council member Bill Dudley in January when Dudley is term-limited out of office.

In his first comments after receiving the news that he had won, Montanari said, “I am humbled by the confidence shown in me by the people of St. Petersburg.”

Continued Montanari, “Now it is time to get to work to move our city forward. I am eagerly looking ahead to continue discussing bold, innovative, and inclusive ways to protect and preserve our quality of life, to enhance our business climate, to promote St Petersburg, improve government services, and to ensure that our neighborhoods are well managed.”

It became clear early on that Montanari would be a formidable challenger to anyone considering seeking the Northeast St. Pete district seat. Montanari came right out of the gate with monstrous support.

His initial host committee announced with his official campaign announcement included both of St. Pete’s powerful state senators (Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala), three former St. Pete mayors (Rick Baker, Bill Foster and Bob Ulrich), and state Reps. Larry Ahern and Darryl Rouson and council members Amy Foster and Dudley.

Famous pitchman Anthoy Sullivan, former Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock, Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant chain, popular St. Pete architect Lisa Wannemacher, state Reps. Frank Farkas and Bill Heller and former mayoral candidate and prominent St. Pete business man Scott Wagman also jumped on board with Montanari’s campaign from day one.

In all, his initial list of supporters started with more than 100 community leaders and residents.

Montanari’s support only grew following his announcement with state Rep. Kathleen Peters adding her support as well as the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association and St. Pete Free Clinic head Beth Houghton.

By June 1, Montanari had reportedly raised more than $45,000 – an unprecedented figure for that early in the campaign. The total funds brought in so far have exceeded those of every entire campaign since 2009 with the exception of Darden Rice, who raised more than $120,000.

However, Montanari was well on his way to exceeding even her impressive fundraising numbers.

Now that Montanari is slated to replace Dudley, he and his campaign staff will have to refund the remaining campaign cash to contributors.

Two other City Council seats up for grabs this election will proceed to an election. Wengay Newton’s seat is at the center of a five-way race between community activist Lisa Wheeler-Brown; code enforcement board chair Aaron Sharpe; Newton’s brother, Will Newton; and two lesser-known candidates, Sheila Scott Griffin and Elvert Lewis Stephens.  Wengay Newton is term-limited out of office and is running for State Rep. Darryl Rouson’s seat in the Florida House.

Incumbent council member Steve Kornell will defend his final term in office against former House District 70 candidate Phillip Garrett.

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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