Notes from the Pinellas GOP's straw poll

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It’s been a few election cycles since I last attended the Pinellas GOP’s straw poll.  But, seeing as how I am again a Republican (at least through the primary on August 14) I figured I should “return to my roots” as Chris Latvala puts it.

Well, after a little time away, it’s safe to say not much has changed.

The faces are mostly the same, if but a few years older. The little ol’ ladies are still the little ol’ ladies.

There are still bat-sh*t crazy candidates, like House candidate Marg Baker, who go on and on about Agenda 21 and the United Nations taking over the country. The best thing to do when speaking with one of these loons is not to argue with them, rather you should completely agree with them. “Marg, not only do I think the ‘blue helments’ are going to take over the U.S., I believe they’re going to start right here in Pinellas. Right now! By the buffet!”

For the most part, though, those attending an event like this are dedicated political aficionados who volunteer countless hours to candidates and causes. It’s really something that 400-plus people showed up at Banquet Masters on a Sunday afternoon to listen to speeches from the same politicians they’ve been listening to for months, if not years.

As for the results of the straw poll, I didn’t catch all of the results, but I did get results in the three most interesting primaries:

Bob Gualtieri defeated Everett Rice, 253 votes to 195 votes;

Jim Frishe defeated Jeff Brandes, 254 votes to 174 votes; and

Kathleen Peters defeated David Phillips.

The biggest surprise has to be Gualtieri defeating Rice, who has been a favorite of local Republicans for three decades. I’m still not convinced Gualtieri is going to win, and it would be silly to base a prediction of a countywide vote on the results of 400 hyperactive partisans, but Gualtieri just has so much momentum right now.

As for Frishe beating Brandes, this is not a surprise. This is a home-turf for Frishe. He, as the negative attacks on him are so eager to say, goes back 40 years with these folks. These are the kind of people immune to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads being aired against Frishe.

Brandes, by the way, delivered a solid speech and had a load of staff and volunteers, so don’t read too much into this straw poll.

Same goes for Peters defeating Phillips. These are her people. If would have been a surprise if she didn’t win.

The highlight of the event, at least for me personally, was when Congressman Bill Young (who won his straw poll 345 votes to 70 votes for his next closest competitor) walked halfway across the room to thank me for exposing professional protester Andrew “Pepe” Kovanis. That’s right, Bill Young thanked me! I responded by letting Congressman Young know how grateful I am for all he does for our community.

Other odds and ends:

You know who looks primed and ready to go for the general election? Reps. Larry Ahern and Ed Hooper.

Is there a better county GOP Chair than JJ Beyrouti? Maybe Hernando’s Blaise Ingoglia or Sarasota’s Joe Gruters, but Beyrouti is working in the purplest of counties, so he may win based on degree of difficulty.

Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark and her staff did another fantastic job running the straw ballot.

Neil Brickfield definitely has the best campaign gear:

Am I the only who gets a serious case of deja vu when they see former Rep. Frank Farkas back on the campaign trail? Frankly really is a decent guy, so it’s good to see him in the game again.

Gualtieri and his wife, Lauralee Westine, sure do look tanned. That tells me they’re knocking on a lot of doors and waving a lot of signs.

Yes, Rep. Peter Nehr is in good shape, as the whole world knows by now, but if anyone on his campaign should be sending out pics of themselves, it’s Brian Lowack. Dude is jacked.

It was nice see Sydney Riley, formerly an aide to Rep. Dana Young who is helping out Brandes’ campaign.

Zahid Roy, a David running against Goliath Jack Latvala, is a pretty smart guy, but has no business running for the Florida Senate. Roy, however, did tell me that the best press he has received was my negative blog post about him.

Not a lot of professional political consultants attend events like these. In fact, they kinda look down on them. But not Mark Zubaly of Southern Campaign Resources. He was at the event, “on the ground” for his candidates and clients.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.