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In addition to presidential candidates, here’s what to expect on local ballots in 2016

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Everyone knows about the Presidential Preference Primary March 15, but not as many know there are a bunch of municipalities packing ballots with local candidates as well.

All of the Belleairs – Belleair, Belleair Beach, Belleair Bluffs and Belleair Shore – will have one council member or commission seat on the ballot each.

Clearwater will elect a Mayor and two City Council members. Same goes for Gulfport. Indian Rocks beach will have two commission seats on the ballot as well as a Mayor and Indian Shores residents will vote for two council member seats.

Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, North Reddington Beach, Oldsmar, Pinellas Park, Redington Beach and Redington Shores, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island will also all hold elections in coordination with the Presidential Preference Primary next year.

Expect the Gulfport elections to be the most impactful to St. Pete. Not only is the Gulfcoast community St. Pete’s neighbor to the West, they are also particularly unhappy with the Sunshine City after raw sewage dumped into Clam Bayou led to several beach closures.

Ward 1 representative Dan Liedtke is likely to draw opposition for his seat, overseeing residents in the southwest portion of Gulfport covering many of the city’s more affluent residents.

While City Council races in Gulfport are non-partisan, Liedtke is seen as a conservative leader. He frequently criticizes St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and, in 2014, was a vocal opponent to the Greenlight Pinellas transit initiative many Gulfport residents favored.

But, Liedtke could get strong support for some residents still angered over the Clam Bayou sewage dump based on his strong voice against St. Pete for the move.

The issue is still a hot topic in Gulfport with the city’s website showing front and center each day whether Clam Bayou and Boca Ciega Bay are open for swimming. The site also lists the most recent water sampling data. St. Pete stopped testing the water on its side of Clam Bayou after claiming water quality levels were within safe levels.

Also on the ballot in Gulfport are Mayor Sam Henderson who was originally elected as Gulfport’s first new mayor since 1991 when he bested Bob Worthington in 2013.

Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman is also up for re-election.

Clearwater’s elections may be the other to watch considering the size of the city compared to others on the ballot in March. Mayor George Cretekos will be up for re-election.

Cretekos has not gotten much heat during his term as Mayor so far and seems to have broad support in the community. It’s not clear who, if anyone, will challenge him.

Council members Doreen Hock-DiPolito and Jay Polglaze are also both up for re-election. Both were elected to their respective seats on council in 2012 without opposition.

The deadline to register to vote or change political party in this election is February 16.

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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