Get Smart Fast about the District 2 race on the Pinellas Commission

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There are three people running for Pinellas County Commission District 2 including the incumbent. Two Republicans will face each other in Tuesday’s primary. The district is at-large which means all Pinellas County voters who are registered Republicans can vote in this race.

Norm Roche – Roche has been on the Commission since 2010. He boasts fighting for stabilizing county taxes and spending. Roche says he always asks touch questions and strives for accountability and ensuring that residents are getting a return on their tax dollars. He pledges to seek only two terms even though the commission is not bound by term limits. He doesn’t support using bed tax funds to build a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays and wants to see homeless services in the county become more efficient to combat the county’s status as what he calls a “homeless destination.” Roche thinks the county should take an all or nothing stance on the EMS issue by either having fire departments handle patient transport entirely or not at all.

Greenlight Pinellas – Roche is and always has been opposed to the transit referendum that, if passed by voters in November, will increase sales tax by one penny to fund increased bus service, bus rapid transit and passenger rail. Roche previously served on the PSTA board that oversees public transportation in the county but was removed. Commission Chair Karen Seel claims the change was made because Roche missed several meetings, but he thinks it was a response to his opposition. Roche says his opposition with the transit plan has nothing to do with being anti-rail or anti-tax, rather he doesn’t agree with the ballot language. Roche would like to see the transit agency work within the budget they currently have by creating main routes along key corridors with smaller buses feeding into those lines.

Endorsements – None listed

Campaign contributions to date – $25,550

Ed Hooper – Hooper served in the Florida House for 8 years and is a retired fire lieutenant. As such, Hooper has a specific plan to improve the County’s EMS process. His five-step plan includes using fire departments that already have transport-ready trucks to transport patients instead of Sunstar and leaving Sunstar services in place for those districts that don’t have an adequate fleet. His plan would close some fire stations. It would also allow Sunstar paramedics to wait at fire stations for calls. As it is now, those vehicles wait at various places around the county like parking lots and gas stations leaving their vehicles running the entire time. Hooper is running against Roche because he voted against water fluoridation. That issue was blamed for ousting two other Republicans during the previous county commission election.

Greenlight Pinellas – Hooper is also opposed to the transit plan. He questions whether rail would work in Pinellas County. He also suggests using Penny for Pinellas funds for transit improvements instead of a tax. Currently a portion of homeowner’s property taxes fund public transportation.

Endorsements – The Tampa Tribune, Ken Burke (Clerk of the Circuit Court), Pam Dubov (Pinellas County Property Appraiser), Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie, Public Defender Bob Dillinger, Rep. Kathleen Peters, Senator Jack Latvala, Sherriff Bob Gualtieri, State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Speaker Will Weatherford, Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson and several other individuals and former elected officials.

Campaign contributions to date – $148,745

The winner of the Republican primary in this race will face Democrat Pat Gerard.

The primary is August 26.



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 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 [email protected]