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Pinellas candidates to square off in debate at SPC

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

To help citizens go to the polls as informed voters, St. Petersburg College is presenting a debate for local candidates seeking public office in the Nov. 8 general election.

The debate, sponsored by SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Digitorium on the Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N. Admission is free, but advance registration is required at

Voting is the most basic civil right American citizens can claim, the debate’s organizers say. It is the foundation of the democratic system of government. It was guaranteed by the blood of the colonists who fought in the Revolutionary War to overthrow British oppression. But, too often, it is unappreciated by contemporary Americans, many of whom don’t bother to vote or fail to inform themselves about the candidates and issues at stake when they do go to the polls.

The debates are presented in an effort to dispel that apathy — and to honor the sacredness of the vote and the importance of an informed electorate.

Facing off will be candidates for Pinellas County Commission from District 3, Pinellas School Board Districts 1 and 5, and candidates for the seven most highly contested seats in the Florida Legislature. A distinguished panel of experts will question the candidates and provide background on the issues. They are:

Kimberly Jackson, department chair, social and behavioral science, St. Petersburg College

Noah Pransky, investigative reporter, WTSP 10 News

Jeremy Wallace, state government and politics reporter, Tampa Bay Times

Moderator: David Klement, executive director, Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, St. Petersburg College

The debates will be split into four sessions, one for the lone County Commission race, one for the two School Board runoff races, and the other two combining state legislative races whose district borders are relatively contiguous, for the convenience of voters interested in their home district candidates.

The tentative schedule is:

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Pinellas County School Board: District 1, Joanne Lentino versus Matt Stewart; District 5, Carol Cook versus Eliseo Santana

6:15-7:30 p.m.: Florida House: District 65, Democrat Bernie Fensterwald versus Republican Chris Sprowls; District 66, Republican Larry Ahern versus Democrat Lorena Grizzle; and District 67, Republican Chris Latvala versus Democrat David Vogel

7-8 p.m.: County Commission District 3: Democrat Charlie Justice versus Republican Mike Mikurak

8-9 p.m.: Florida Senate: District 19, Republican John Houman versus Democrat Darryl Rouson. Florida House: District 68, Republican Joseph Bensmihen versus Democrat Ben Diamond; District 69, Republican Kathleen Peters versus Democrat Jennifer Webb; and District 70, Republican Cori Fournier versus Democrat Wengay Newton

To register or for more information, visit or call 727-394- 6942.

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