Deadline fast approaching to register to vote in March elections

As for Feb. 7 two incumbent county officials had not yet announced their plans to run for re-election — Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, left, and County Commissioner Karen Seel. All the county’s constitutional officers are up for election this year as are four county commission seats.

Ballots for the March 17 presidential preference primary and 12 municipal elections are starting to arrive for those signed up to receive them by mail.

The Supervisor of Election’s Office sent out military and overseas ballots Jan. 31 and domestic ballots went out Feb. 11. The last date to request a ballot be mailed is March 7, 5 p.m. Mail ballots must be returned to an elections office by 7 p.m. March 17.

Only voters registered as a Democrat or Republican can cast a ballot in favor of a presidential candidate during the closed primary. 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 nonpartisan, so all registered voters in those cities can participate.

The deadline to change a party affiliation or register to take part in that election is Feb. 18. Early voting is scheduled from March 7-15.

August primaries

All five of the county’s constitutional officers are up for election this year. For years, Republicans have held these positions with very few challenges. It remains to be seen if 2020 will be different. Only one Democrat had announced a challenge as of Feb. 7.

Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Ken Burke has announced his intention to run for another term. He is currently unopposed. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also has announced that he will run again. He is being challenged by James McLynas, a no party affiliate candidate.

Property Appraiser Mike Twitty is running again and so far is unopposed. Tax Collector Charles Thomas also has announced he is running and is the only candidate in the race thus far.

No word yet from Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark; however, newcomer Ruqaiyah McGee, a Democrat from Clearwater, has announced her bid for the job.

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. Thus far, she is running unopposed.

Democrat Charlie Justice is running to keep his seat representing District 3. Two opponents have announced their intention to challenge him, including fellow Democrat Christian Kane Lanier of St. Petersburg and Republican Steven Mitchell Homol of St. Petersburg.

Republican Karen Seel, a longtime representative of District 5, has not officially announced her intention to run but according to media reports plans to do so.

Five candidates have tossed their hats in the ring in the race to replace Democrat Ken Welch, who has held the District 7 seat since 2000. Welch is leaving the county commission so he can run for mayor of St. Petersburg.

Three Democrats have announced their intention to run for Welch’s seat, including Rene Flowers, who currently serves on the Pinellas County School Board; Wengay “Newt” Newton, who has decided not to run for reelection to represent District 70 in the state House of Representatives; 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. The fifth candidate is Maria L. Scruggs, a no party affiliate candidate from St. Petersburg.

Races with more than one qualified candidate will appear on the Aug. 18 primary ballot along with school board elections and other nonpartisan contests.

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 candidates are challenging 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.

For more election information, visit VotePinellas.com.

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