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Coats to keep sheriff's job, Burke wins Clerk of the Court race
Voters approve the majority of County Charter Amendments.
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PINELLAS COUNTY - The county races for constitutional officers weren't complete runaways, but there was none of the drama of the federal races as Jim Coats and Ken Burke garnered enough votes to clearly earn the title of winner, unofficially that is.

As of 1:55 a.m. Wednesday, the unofficial results posted on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections' Web site, showed that Republican Jim Coats had defeated challenger Democrat Bubba Clem 72.3 percent to 27.6 to keep his job as Pinellas County Sheriff. Coats took over a bit early when former sheriff Everett Rice retired the position to take on his new job as State Representative for District 54.

Republican Ken Burke easily defeated his opponent Democrat Carolyn "Carrie" Wadlinger to win the race for Clerk of the Court. As of 1:55 a.m. Burke was leading Wadlinger with 57.1 percent of the unofficial vote totals.

County Commission races

Unlike the federal races, the unofficial vote totals for County Commissioners also showed clear winners. As of 1:55 a.m., Republican Ronnie Duncan was on top for the District 1 at-large seat vacated by Barbara Sheen Todd with 55.2 percent of the vote to his opponent Democrat Norm Roche's 44.7 percent. Incumbent Republican Bob Stewart was the winner of the District 3 at-large seat with 55.1 percent. His opponent, Democrat Maria Scruggs-Weston received 44.8 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Republican Karen Seel handily retained her District 5 seat with 98.4 percent of the vote. Seel was opposed by write in candidate Eloisa Esposito. Incumbent Democrat Ken Welch was the front-runner in District 7, receiving 65.3 percent of the vote to challenger Republican Sharon Russ, who received 34.6 percent.

County Charter Amendments

Voters approved all the amendments to the county's charter with the exception of No. 4, which would have changed the duties of the county administrator giving that person the power to fire employees without approval of the Board of County Commissioners. Amendment No. 4 was defeated 65.5 percent to 34.4 percent.

Amendment No. 1, which will prohibit County Commissioners from interfering with the administration of county government, passed with 61.5 percent of the vote.

Amendment No. 2, calling for the county administrator to be named the county's budget officer also passed by 54 percent.

Amendment No. 3, which changes the requirements for firing the county administrator, passed with 70 percent of the vote.

Amendment No. 5, which continues the work of the charter review board until 2006, was passed by 66.5 percent of the votes.

School Board Referendum

A majority of voters, 63.5 percent approved the school board referendum, agreeing to pay an additional .5 mill in ad valorem taxes over the next four years.

Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District

Voters rejected the referendum to change the funding formula for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District (PSF&RD) by 75 percent. Voters also cast ballots for PSF&RD Commissioner, Seat 2. John J. Todia received the most votes, 39.5 percent to Patricia Anne Muneio's 31.7 percent and incumbent Bill Ripley's 28.6 percent.

In other election news:

- Largo voters approved an amendment to its city charter.

- Indian Rocks Beach voters approved 14 of 16 of their ballot questions.

- Treasure Island voters approved an advisory question.
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