Elections office gearing up for busy 2020 with lots of local races

Two of three county commissioners up for election in 2020 have announced their intentions to run for another term, Janet Long and Charlie Justice.

Most people are likely aware that 2020 is a presidential election year, but that’s not the only race they’ll see on the ballot when they head to the polls for primary and general elections.

The presidential preference primary and municipal elections in Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Shore, Clearwater, Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, North Redington Beach, Oldsmar, Pinellas Park, Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Safety Harbor, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island are tentatively scheduled on March 17.

During the primary, voters registered as a Democrat or Republican can cast a ballot in favor of the presidential candidate they would like to see representing their party on the general election ballot in November.

The presidential preference primary is a closed-primary election, so only registered Democrats or Republicans can participate. However, municipal elections are nonpartisan, meaning all registered voters within a municipality can cast a ballot regardless of political affiliation.

The last day to register to vote or change a party affiliation before the March 17 elections is Feb. 18.

Primary elections

Next on the calendar is the 2020 primary election on Aug. 18. Voter registration deadline is July 20.

This primary includes federal, state, county and special district races, depending on whether a candidate has an opponent.

Federal offices up for election in Pinellas include U.S. Representative in District 12, currently held by Republican Gus Bilirakis, and District 13, which is currently held by Democrat Charlie Crist.

In state races, local offices up for election include 6th Judicial Circuit state attorney, a position held for many years by Republican Bernie McCabe, and public defender, which is held by Republican Bob Dillinger.

This also is a year to decide on a senator for District 19, currently held by Democrat Darryl Rouson. Seven of the county’s state representative seats are up for election, including District 64, currently held by Republican James Grant; District 65, represented by Republican Chris Sprowls; District 66, held by Republican Nick DiCeglie; District 67, represented by Republican Chris Latvala; District 68, held by Democrat Ben Diamond; District 69, represented by Democrat Jennifer Web; and District 70, held by Democrat Wengay “Newt” Newton Sr.

In addition, voters will be asked to decide whether to retain Second District Court of Appeal judges Morris Silberman and Daniel Sleet.

It’s also an election year for the county’s five constitutional officers: clerk of the circuit court and comptroller, sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector and supervisor of elections.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is one of two constitutional officers that have announced their intention to run for another term. Gualtieri currently has one opponent, James McLynas, who is a no party affiliated candidate. Gualtieri is a Republican, as are all the other constitutional officers.

Clerk of the Court and Comptroller Ken Burke is the second constitutional officer that has announced a run for another term. Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, Tax Collector Charles Thomas and Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark had not yet made an announcement as of Jan. 3.

Four county commission seats will be part of the 2020 elections. Democrat Janet Long has announced she is running for another term representing District 1 and Democrat Charlie Justice will run to keep his seat representing District 3. Republican Karen Seel who is a longtime representative of District 5 has not officially announced her intentions to run but according to media reports plans to do so.

Three candidates, two Democrats and one Republican, have announced they will run for the District 7 seat, currently held by Democrat Ken Welch, who is leaving the commission to run for St. Petersburg’s mayor.

The two Democrats are Rene Flowers, who currently serves on the Pinellas County School Board, and Frank Peterman Jr., who served in the state House of Representatives from 2000-2008. The Republican candidate is Chico Cromartie, who was defeated in the 2019 primary election for a seat on the St. Petersburg City Council.

Nonpartisan elections

Unlike the closed primary elections, several races on the Aug. 18 ballot will be open to all registered voters regardless of political affiliation.

Three school board seats will be on the ballot, including District 1, currently held by Joanne Lentino, who has announced she will run for another term. Two challengers have announced their intention to run against Lentino, Victor Connelly and Stephanie Meyer.

Eileen Long who represents District 4 has announced her candidacy for another term on the school board and has no challengers thus far. No one has announced for District 5, including the incumbent Carol Cook, who currently serves as school board chair.

County Judge races also are nonpartisan. The only announced candidate thus far is incumbent James Pierce for Group 10. No candidates have announced for Group 3, currently held by Edwin Jagger; Group 14, currently served by Robert Dittmer; or Group 15 currently held by John Carassas.

Eighteen nonpartisan circuit judge positions are up for re-election as well.

Special districts

East Lake Tarpon Special Fire Control District will hold elections for Seat 1, 3 and 5. Lealman Special Fire Control District will hold elections for Seat 1, 3 and 5.

Palm Harbor Special Fire Control & Rescue District will have elections for Seat 1, 3 and 5, and Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District will hold elections for Seat 1, 2 and 5.

Registered voters that live in the Eastlake Oaks Community Development District will vote for candidates running for Seat 4 and 5, and in Clearwater Cay Community Development District, an election will be held for Seat 1 and 2.

The winners of the primary elections will go on to the general election set for Tuesday, Nov. 3. Voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. Runoff elections from nonpartisan races also could appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

In addition, three municipalities will hold elections on Nov. 3 — Dunedin, Largo and Seminole.

For more election information, visit votepinellas.com.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.