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Voters have their say in March 14 municipal elections
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It was a night of upsets for some incumbents as 10 Pinellas County municipalities held elections March 14 – Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira Beach, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Safety Harbor, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island.

Up for grabs were 11 commission seats, two councilmember seats and three mayoral positions.

According to information on the Supervisor of Elections website, votep­inell­as.co­m, 61,709 voters had met the deadline to participate in the elections. The majority, 13,193 cast mail ballots, and 4,463 visited a polling place, according to unofficial results posted just 30 minutes after the polls closed. Voter turnout was only 28.56 percent with all ballots except provisional ones counted as of 8 p.m.

Election details

Of the total registered to vote March 14, 8,920 were able participate in Gulfport’s election to choose between two to serve as councilmember representing Ward 2. With all seven precincts reporting and mail ballots counted, incumbent Christine Anne Brown was way ahead of challenger Linda Bailey.

Brown had received 80.96 percent, or 1,407 of the 1,738 ballots cast, to Bailey with 19.04 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Michael Fridovich, who currently serves as vice mayor, also took the lead in his race for the Ward 4 seat picking up 54.15 percent, or 959 of the 1,771 votes cast. Challengers Bobby L. Reynolds received 21.96 percent, Ernest Stone had 16.49 percent and Richard Fried garnered 7.0 percent.

In Indian Rocks Beach, 3,214 were registered as of the Feb. 13 deadline. Two commission seats were up for election. Voters were asked to pick two from a list of four names, including incumbents Terry Hamilton-Wollin and Phillip J. Hanna, who were challenged by Philip M. Wrobel and Hope Wyant.

Hanna managed to keep his seat with 29.34 percent of the vote, or 551 votes of the 1,878 cast in the race. Wrobel was in second place with 30.72 percent of the vote. Wyant had 20.39 percent and Hamilton-Wollin picked up 19.54 percent.

Madeira Beach had 3,250 registered voters eligible to pick their favorites for mayor and city commissioners for District 3 and 4.

Margaret Black took on Incumbent Travis Palladeno for the position of mayor and, according to unofficial results, it looks like the city will have a new mayor. Black received 55.47 percent, or 771 of the 1,390 votes cast to Palladeno with 44.53 percent.

Ingrid Ferro-Spilde, who was appointed to fill the position as District 3 commissioner left vacant when Elaine Poe resigned in December, was successfully challenged by Nancy T. Oakley, who picked up 60.70 percent or 821 of the 1,357 votes cast in that race. Ferro-Spilde received 39.50 percent.

In District 4, Housh Ghovaee, who was appointed in July 2016 to fill the position of left vacant by the June resignation of Pat Shontz, faced John E. Douthirt and David Allen Hitterman to keep his job. Ghovaee had been serving as vice-mayor before he was removed from the commission after a county circuit court judge ruled March 6 that the city had violated the Sunshine Law when they appointed him to fill Shontz's position.

It seems Ghovaee’s time of the commission was short-lived as Douthirt was the top vote getter with 55.15 percent or 744 of the 1,349 votes cast. Hitterman had the second highest total with 25.06 percent and Ghovaee had 19.79 percent.

North Redington Beach’s 1,175 registered voters had only one decision to make - to keep incumbent Richard L. Bennett, who has held Seat 1 on the commission since 2003, or to replace him with challenger Jeff Busch. It seems everyone is pleased with the way Bennett has been doing his job. He received 57.83 percent or 240 of the 415 votes cast. Busch received 42.17 percent.

Redington Shores’ 476 registered voters also had only one race of the ballot. Voters were asked to choose between Jeffery C. Neal and Jason E. Schrimsher to fill the position for District 2 on the commission left vacant by incumbent John Branch. Neal was on top with 73.96 percent or 125 of the 169 votes cast. Schrimsher received 26.04 percent.

In Safety Harbor, 12,732 registered voters had choices in races for mayor and commissioner for Seat 1 and Seat 4.

Janet Hooper, who gave up Seat 1 on the commission, and Joe Ayoub vied for the job of mayor, left vacant by Andy Steinhold. Ayoub took the lead against the former commissioner with 65.54 percent or 3,001 of the 4,579 votes cast in that race. Hooper received 34.46 percent.

A field of four ran to fill the Seat 1 position, including Nancy J. Besore, Cameron Boozarjomehri, Damon Lister and Scott Long. It was a close race between Long and Besore, but Long was on top with 35.70 percent or 1,556 of the 4,359 votes cast. Besore had 34.57 percent with Lister picking up 19.50 percent and Boozarjomehri garnered 10.23 percent.

Incumbent Carlos Diaz held off challenger Luanne Lambert to keep his Seat 4 position on the commission. Diaz received 64.39 percent or 2,795 of the 4,331 votes cast. Lambert picked up 35.61 percent.

South Pasadena’s 3,864 voters picked from a list of three names to fill two commissioner seats. The candidates were Dan Calabria, Gigi Esposito and David Magenheimer. Esposito received the most votes, 45.75 percent or 764 of the 1,670 votes cast in the race. Magenheimer won the second seat with 35.87 percent of the vote and Calabria picked up 18.38 percent.

The mayor’s job was on the line in St. Pete Beach. The city’s 7,366 registered voters were asked to choose between incumbent Deborah Schechner and challengers John-Michael Fleig and Alan Johnson. Schechner was appointed interim mayor after the job became available June 30 when former Mayor Maria Lowe stepped down to accompany her husband to France after he was named deputy director of cemetery operations for the American Battle Monuments Commission.

But it seems the voters had a different choice giving Johnson 61.17 percent or 1,799 of the 2,941 votes cast. Schechner received 35.02 percent of the vote and Fleig picked up 3.81 percent.

The 17,597 registered voters in Tarpon Springs were charged with picking a new Seat 1 commissioner to replace incumbent Townsend Tarapani. Three names were on the ballot: Frank DiDonato, Jacob Karr and Tim Keffalas.

Karr was the clear favorite receiving 46.10 percent or 1,484 of the 3,219 votes cast. DiDonato received 31.90 percent of the vote and Keffalas picked up 21.99 percent.

Two commission seats were on the ballot for Treasure Island’s 3,115 registered voters to make their choices. District 1 Commissioner Phil Collins, who currently serves as vice mayor, was challenged by Deborah Lynn Toth. Incumbent District 3 Commissioner Patrick "Pat" Jeffares vied against Ralph D. Kennedy.

Toth was up on top of the longtime District 1 incumbent with 52.80 percent or 292 of the 553 votes cast. Collins had 47.20 percent. Challenger Kennedy also proved to be the top vote getter in the District 3 race with 63.54 percent or 251 of the 395 votes cast. Jeffares received 36.46 percent.

Five municipalities - Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Shore, Indian Shores, Kenneth City and Redington Beach – canceled elections because the number of qualified candidates did not exceed the number of offices up for election, according to information at the Supervisor of Elections Office, www.V­otePi­nella­s.com.

The municipalities chose not to conduct early voting as allowed by state statute.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County Editor. Email her at webmaster@tbnweekly.com.

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