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St. Pete City Council incumbents Charlie Gerdes, Steve Kornell sail to re-election

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

As expected, both St. Petersburg City Council incumbents facing re-election cruised to easy victories Tuesday night. With early voting counted, Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes was trouncing Monica Abbott with 64 percent of the vote.

Steve Kornell is leading his opponent, Philip Garrett 56 percent to 44 percent.

While Gerdes never really faced a credible threat from Abbott, Kornell did have cause for concern when the Tampa Bay Times endorsed Garrett based on one defining issue: Garrett supported Mayor Rick Kriseman’s brokered deal to let the Tampa Bay Rays search for stadium sites outside of St. Pete while Kornell did not.

Garrett ran against Kornell arguing the six-year incumbent had done little to benefit the residents of his South St. Pete District 5. He also pushed an agenda that included lower taxes and improved city services.

Where Garrett faltered was in his lack of a plan to support that goal. Kornell, meanwhile, fired back against his opponent with details of his track record as a City Council member. Kornell ushered in sweeping improvements to the Skyway Marina District including a Jabil Circuit expansion to the Ceridian building. He also secured a promise from St. Petersburg College to support training for potential workers to boost jobs for residents.

Kornell also fought hard for a land grab surrounding Boyd Hill Nature Preserve that will go a long way in protecting the park from land development. Kornell was also behind the sale of the crime-plagued Mariner’s Point Apartment Complex that has improved conditions there.

Kornell’s campaign also benefited by raising far more money than Garrett. As of the most recent campaign finance documents filed last week, Kornell had raised more than $50,000. Garrett’s most recent campaign finance documents through Oct. 18 show earnings of just $1,481.

It’s unclear how much Garrett really raised, though. Throughout the campaign his treasurer’s reports have been wildly inconsistent.

The funding battle between Gerdes and Abbott was much closer. As of Oct. 25, Gerdes raised a little more than $13,000 for a campaign he vowed to win re-election in with as little funding as possible.

Abbott raised $12,425 as of Oct. 4, the most recent report available on the city’s website. Most of that funding came from a personal loan.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the St. Petersburg native now a Democratic candidate for Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District, released a statement applauding the winners this evening:

“Congratulations to Councilmembers Charlie Gerdes and Steve Kornell, and welcome to Councilmember-elect Lisa Wheeler-Brown. I’m thankful for their public service. St. Petersburg is a great place, but there’s more work to do for fair wages, a healthy environment, education, and good jobs in the Sunshine City.”

Kornell and Gerdes are to be sworn in for their final terms Jan. 2.

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 Patch.com 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 janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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