Long-time incumbent Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark is facing challenger Jack Killingsworth in the Nov. 6 general election.
It’s not the first time the two have faced off for the job, Clark defeated Killingsworth Nov. 4, 2008, with 61 percent of the vote.
Tampa Bay Newspapers asked the candidates to complete a questionnaire to help readers get to the know the candidates and their views.
About the candidates
Clark, 63, is the Republican candidate. Originally from Fort Meade, she has lived in Pinellas County since the early 1970s. She is married to Richard A. Clark. They have four children and seven grandchildren.
She has worked for the Elections Office since 1978 and served as deputy supervisor of elections in 1982. She was first-elected to the office of Supervisor of Elections in 2000.
Clark has an Associates of Arts degree from St. Petersburg Junior College.
Killingsworth, 78, is running as a Democrat. He hails from Panama City and has lived in Pinellas County for 42 years. He is married to Robbie Killingsworth. They have three children, ages 50, 47 and 40.
Killingsworth is a Navy veteran. His employment history includes working as project manager for advanced computer development at Honeywell and project manager for telecommunications printers at E-Systems (now Raytheon). He was president of Siliconexion, a programmable logic design and verification company.
He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and a master’s in business administration from the Florida Institute of Technology.
Clark has 35 years of experience supervising voter registration and elections in Pinellas County. She is a nationally Certified Elections and Registration Administrator and state certified supervisor of elections. She is involved in the State Association of Supervisors of Elections and currently serves on the board of directors. She also serves on the Administrative Rules Committee and Budget Committee.
Her past service includes time on the Legislative, Reapportionment, Canvassing Board, training and education; Bylaws and Rules; Vision; Communications & Publications; and Get Out the Vote & Scholarship program. She was an associate board member for Kids Voting Tampa Bay, and she taught election administration classes for new municipal clerks at Florida State University for the Florida Institute of Government.
Killingsworth’s qualifications include an “outstanding formal education and directly applicable private sector professional experience to supervise a modern elections office.” He also served on the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Standards Committee on Electronic Voting.
Clark says she is the best-qualified candidate due to her knowledge and experience.
“This includes supervising hundreds of elections: federal, state, county, special district and municipal; implementing a statewide voter registration database; redistricting and reprecincting the county after national census four times,” she said.
She also supervised installation of three voting systems since, participated in voter education for students in grades one through 12, which led to 120,000 students participating in school elections and voter registration for 25,000 high school seniors.
She says she has increased access to voter registration and ballots; implemented online tracking for mail ballots; maintained voter registration records. While in office, voter turnout has increased and over the past six years, the budget has decreased 30 percent.
Killingsworth lists several reasons he is the best person for the job.
“Ms. Clark learned how to conduct elections using punch cards and, after 12 years in office, she and her staff are struggling to master the operation of a modern electronics and computer-based elections office,” he said. “I thoroughly understand the voting equipment technologies and how to recruit and train a competent staff.”
When asked why she was running for another term, Clark said, “I have proudly served as Supervisor of Elections for the past 12 years and would like to continue the tradition of conducting fair and impartial elections in Pinellas County.”
She hopes “to continue efforts to expand voter registration and ballot access using the most efficient and cost-effective solutions.”
Killingsworth says he is running for office because he has “a deep sense of obligation to our nation and community that began with eight years of service in the U.S. Navy during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.”
“Thanks to the Korean War Veterans GI Bill, I obtained an excellent education that prepared me for a long and successful career designing and developing computers for aerospace and defense applications and then to owning my own business,” he said. “Now in retirement, I would be pleased to repay some small part of that obligation in elective office with no other purpose than to serve the best interest of the people.”
If elected, Killingsworth says he would eliminate the need for expensive voting equipment consultants.
“By running the office on a non-partisan basis, I will eliminate the need for highly paid partisan-appointed deputy supervisors,” he said.
Most pressing issue
Clark says the most pressing issue facing the Elections Office is the budget.
“Budget cuts have been and will continue to be the biggest challenge due to declining resources and increasing federal and state requirements,” she said.
Clark said she will “continue to manage the public’s money responsibly, respecting the fact that they also face financial challenges and deserve accountability for every taxpayer dollar we spend.”
Killingsworth says the most pressing issue facing the Elections Office “is the continuing stream of avoidable errors that result in costly rework and delays in performing critical election office functions, including the handling of mail ballots, the use of unapproved software and computers infected with viruses.”
“In the governor’s evaluation of the state’s 67 Elections Offices, Pinellas was twice underrated on ballot management,” he said.
To fix the problem, Killingsworth said, if elected, he would “develop formal and comprehensive quality and configuration control plans and then ensure that the plans were followed.”
“Much of my professional career was in a mission critical and ‘zero errors’ environment,” he said.