The City of St. Pete is hosting a candidate forum Monday at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers. Candidates from Districts 1, 5 and 7 are all invited to participate.
That includes the two most-watched candidates vying for the District 7 seat being vacated by incumbent Wengay Newton. Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Will Newton, the incumbent’s brother. They are in a heated matchup to represent voters in the city’s poorest District.
The League of Women Voters is moderating the debate. It’s unclear whether they will ask Newton and Wheeler-Brown about some recent mudslinging involving Newton’s bargaining experience with the city that was called into question in a campaign mailer.
Recent SaintPetersblog reports also turned out information that Wheeler-Brown had questionably used campaign funds for dental work and then failed to report that expense accurately for more than six months. The issue led to The Tampa Tribune rescinding its endorsement and instead backing Newton.
The Tampa Bay Times has stuck by its endorsement as have several other local Democratic organizations.
Also taking the stage Monday are St. Pete City Council Chair Charlie Gerdes and his challenger, Monica Abbott, as well as incumbent Steve Kornell and his opponent, Phillip Garrett.
Gerdes has nabbed endorsements from both major local newspapers as well as the local police and firefighters unions and the local SEIU. A Realtor group also backs Gerdes.
Kornell lost his coveted support from the Tampa Bay Times based on his hardline stance on the Tampa Bay Rays deal still lingering in city business. Kornell has remained opposed to current versions of the deal being floated through council and backed by the Times.
Kornell is still endorsed by The Tampa Tribune.
Both Kornell and Gerdes earned comfortable polling placements in a recent city survey while the Wheeler-Brown/Newton matchup was too close to call.
Also expected to attend the forum is City Council-elect Ed Montanari. Montanari was elected without opposition to replace Bill Dudley for the District 3 seat. Both Dudley and Wengay Newton were term-limited out of office
The forum will be carried live on StPeteTV on Channel 35 on broadcast, 641 on Bright House, 15 on WOW and 20 on FiOs. The debate will also be streamed live on the StPeteTV website.
Residents are being encouraged to arrive as early as 6:30 p.m. in order to submit questions for candidates. The Pinellas County supervisor of elections will also be on hand before the forum begins to register voters.
Election Day is November 3, but mail ballots have already been sent out to voters who requested them. Votes continue to trickle in by the day at the SOE’s office.