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Mail ballots to go out for St. Pete and Seminole voters today

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections will begin mailing ballots to voters in St. Pete and Seminole Tuesday to the more than 65,000 domestic voters who requested them. Most of those will be sent to St. Pete voters who will decide three City Council races and four amendments.

The most contentious race in the Sunshine City is between community activist Lisa Wheeler-Brown and firefighter union representative Will Newton. That race has gotten heated over the past couple of months as new of potential campaign finance violations surfaced against Wheeler-Brown. At issue was a $500 expense for dental work among a flurry of other sloppy reporting errors.

The Wheeler-Brown campaign fired back this week accusing Newton of having a poor bargaining record as a union representative and challenging whether he would be an obstructionist on council. A Tampa Bay Times article compared Newton to his brother, Wengay Newton, who is the current incumbent the two candidates are seeking to replace.

Also on the ballot are District 1 candidates Charlie Gerdes and Monica Abbott. That race has been all but silent up until Monday when a campaign mailer from Abbott hit mailboxes touting her as an open and reachable candidate. Gerdes is the incumbent and City Council chair.

Incumbent Steve Kornell faces Phillip Garrett in a bid to hold onto his District 5 seat. That race is considered non-competitive. Kornell has raised more than $40,000 for his re-election while Garrett has only brought in about $1,000.

The referendums will ask voters whether City Council and mayoral candidates should have to live either in their district, or, in the case of a mayoral candidate, in the city before, during and after an election. Another referendum asks whether an electronic tally system now available to the City Clerk should be a valid replacement for an audible roll call during certain City Council votes.

The two other referenda are slightly more complicated. One involves environmental protection of an area located adjacent to North Shore Park. It would give City Council the authority to create permanent restrictions on land use in order to preserve seagrass beds.

The other asks whether “Precinct Lines Need Not be Followed Where it Would Compromise Compact and Contiguous Council Districts.”

Seminole voters will choose two council members from a list of six. That municipality has two ballot questions including whether consecutive absences from council meetings or workshops should constitute a forfeiture of office.

Mail ballots went out earlier this month to nearly 500 overseas voters. So far only 18 have returned them. The general election is November 3.

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

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