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Reaction to Ed Montanari’s City Council announcement is positive

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

People have been expecting Ed Montanari to announce a bid for St. Pete City Council. There was a considerable amount of hype. But now that it’s official, Montanari has proven he’s got an all- star lineup of supporters backing him in his campaign.

A list of initial supporters is more than 100 people deep. His host committee includes a bipartisan mix of current City Council members, including the incumbent, former mayors, former mayoral candidates and business leaders.

“It does my heart good to hear guys like Ed wanting to be a leader in our city,” said St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher. “He’s got so much time involved in how our city works”

Montanari has sat on numerous boards including those working on issues surrounding the Pier, the Rays and St. Pete’s Albert Whitted Airport. He’s worked with the chamber and spends countless hours toward civic engagement despite a grueling schedule as a commercial airline pilot.

“He’s really rolled his sleeves up and to me he really is a public servant,” Steinocher said.

Montanari ran for the City Council District 3 seat in 2007, but was bested by current council member Bill Dudley. Dudley is supporting Montanari’s second bid at the job as a co-chair of his host committee.

As far as fundraising is concerned, Montanari is likely to be a powerhouse. Former Mayor Rick Baker, who now works side by side the powerful Bill Edwards, is also backing him.

“I’ve known Ed a long time,” Baker said. “I’ll be here to answer the phone when he calls.”

“Ed is someone that has the combined tools of being very smart and very passionate and wiling to work hard to make our city better,” Baker said.

Montanari is also boasting a powerful team with attorney Rob Kapusta jumping on board as his campaign treasurer. Kapusta comes with his own resume, including chairing the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership and Mahaffey Theater Foundation.

“I think Ed has demonstrated throughout his history in the city — his chairing of the airport commission and vice chair of the pier committee that the city put together a few years ago — that he shows an extreme thoroughness and looks at all sides of the issue,” Kapusta said.

Kapusta didn’t say whether the campaign had set any fundraising goals, but that it would aim to raise whatever the race required. As of now, no one has stepped up to challenge Montanari. Names haven’t even been thrown.

Montanari is also pulling support from former mayoral candidate and St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees member Deveron Gibbons.

“Whenever you get a sensible businessman who’s actively been involved that usually means they’re going to be a pretty good council candidate or member,” Gibbons said.

While those supporters are all conservatives, Montanari is pulling plenty of support from the other side of the aisle including councilwoman Amy Foster and state Rep. Darryl Rouson.

And he’s left with some caution from those within his own party. George Farrell, founder of the BlakPAC group that aims to elect African-American Republicans into offices statewide, said Montanari would be wise to shore up support from No Tax for Tracks by explaining to them how he would address transportation woes without increasing taxes.

He noted Montanari’s perceived affiliation with Greenlight Pinellas through the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce as a potential sticking point with the largely Tea Party group. He said he wouldn’t comment on Montanari’s bid because he’s not too familiar with him, but hopes he’ll reach out to that group.

However while the chamber endorsed Greenlight, Montanari opposed it. Other conservatives did support the transit initiative including state Sen. Jack Latvala, Pinellas County Commissioners Karen Seel and John Morroni and countless others across the county.

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 [email protected]

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