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Service employees’ union endorses Charlie Justice, Carol Cook

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Florida branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has endorsed candidates in Pinellas County elections.

At the county level, Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Justice and School Board member Carol Cook, both running for re-election, received the union’s support.

At the local level, Dunedin Mayor Julie Bujalski, who is seeking re-election, also received the union’s endorsement.

The union also supports renewing the one-half mill ad valorem tax for school district operating expenses.

And, at the state level, the SEIU has endorsed Democrat Jennifer Webb, who is running for the State House District 69 seat. A first-time candidate, she is opposing Republican incumbent Kathleen Peters, who was elected in 2012.

Justice, a Democrat, has served on the Pinellas County Commission since 2012. Before that, he served in both the Florida House of Representatives (2000-2006) and Senate (2006-2010). He is running on his record, saying the commission has mended fences with cities, fire districts, and Pinellas residents since his election four years ago. Justice says there’s still important work to be done.

He’s facing a challenge from retired businessman Mike Mikurak, a Republican. Mikurak, a first-time candidate, is running on his record in business. He says a businessman is needed on the commission.

They are running for the District 3 seat, which is voted on countywide.

Cook has served on the Pinellas School Board since 2000. She is running on her experience and the knowledge she has gained while serving on the board. She is being challenged by Eliseo Santana, a first-time candidate and a retired civilian supervisor at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Santana says he was inspired to run after reading about five south Pinellas schools where 90 percent of the children had failed reading, writing, and math. He said he had an epiphany that he should do something to turn those schools around.

They are running for the District 5 seat on the board, which covers a portion of mid-Pinellas County. The non-partisan race is voted on by residents of that district.

Bujalski was elected Dunedin mayor in 2014. Before that, she served on the Dunedin City Commission for eight years. She is being challenged by Bruce Livingston, the current vice mayor. Livingston was elected to the Dunedin Commission in 2014. The election is nonpartisan.

Early voting began Monday in Pinellas and runs through Nov. 6. Early voting polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Election Day is Nov. 8.

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