With such a contentious rivalry between Gualtieri & Rice, should Greg Pound be speaking at Tiger Bay?

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The most exciting local election in Pinellas County clearly is the race for Sheriff.

Former four-term Sheriff Everett Rice took an early lead in polling a year ago, but incumbent Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott over Rice, retains a commanding list of supporters who include: Sheriffs Coats, Gee, Judd & Knight; Sen. Latvala; Representatives Ahern & Hooper, the Clerk of Court, Property Appraiser, & Tax Collector; Commissioners Bostock & Latvala; Mayors Foster, Hibbard, Peters, & Mischler; and many more.

Charges of “birtherism, double-dipping, and even corruption are being bantered about by the leading candidates’s surrogates.

Make no mistake, there are only two “leading” candidate, Gualtieri and Rice.  Everyone, and I mean everyone,knows this.  The polling proves it.  The media coverage reinforces it. Whoever the next Sheriff will be is going to be decided in the Republican primary.

Democrat Scott Swope, a well-meaning candidate, has little chance of winning, but he is carrying the standard of a major party, so, I guess, he should be included in discussions about the Sheriff’s race.

But Greg Pound, a write-in candidate, has no business being included in the discussions or debates.

Unfortunately, my beloved Suncoast Tiger Bay saw fit to invite Pound to be part of its next panel on the Sheriff’s race on June 21.  Gualtieri, Rice, and Pound, of course, were also invited.

What people will be coming to see is Gualtieri vs. Rice.  Yes, some Democrats will toe the party line and root for Pound and that’s all well and good.

But Pound’s presence is a distraction.

Pound has no chance of winning. None.  Nor is he a genuine candidate. He’s a write-in. He’s raised no money, has no organization to speak of.  Yet, he will be afforded the same status as Gualtieri, Rice and Pound.  It’s not like there is separate panel table for the write-in candidates.

So instead of seeing Gualtieri and Rice engage in a genuine debate, as only Tiger Bay can provide, there will be a panel discussion during which Pound will likely receive a quarter of the speaking time.

In the 2008 election, all of the write-in candidates running against Jim Coats and Randall Jones ended up receiving (combined) 0.26% of the vote. A total of 1,133 people voted for write-ins.  That’s but a quarter of one percent of the total vote.

At next week’s Tiger Bay panel, the write-in candidate will receive about 25% of the vote.

How is that fair? To those listening in the crowd? To the legitimate candidates speaking? To the voters of Pinellas County who depend on forums, such as this, to help decide clarify the race?

The answer is, it’s not fair.

Still, I urge you to RSVP for this event. Gualtieri vs. Rice is must-see TV at this point.

But no one will blame you if you tune-out the rest of the program.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.