On November 2, voters will have their say on St. Petersburg’s next mayor and council members in Districts 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8.
This election is non-partisan, but each candidate has strong stances on how they will represent the city during their term in office. The candidates, two in each category, beat out the competition in late August during the primary elections. Each aspiring official, and a handful of incumbents, will have to win the majority vote to reach the coveted spot at St. Petersburg City Hall.
The election is city-wide; residents can request a mail-in ballot until October 23.
The Next Mayor: Ken Welch vs. Robert Blackmon
St. Petersburg is saying goodbye to term-limited Mayor Rick Kriseman, who has served for the full term limits. His successor will be either Ken Welch or Robert Blackmon, who have wildly different political agendas and backgrounds.
Welch, a registered Democrat who grew up in St. Petersburg’s Gas Plant District, served as the
second ever Black commissioner on the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, District 7, for 20 years.
Similar to his platform as commissioner for two decades, Welch looks to prioritize economic development by focusing on climate resiliency, transportation, equity, housing and criminal justice reform.
In contrast, registered Republican Robert Blackmon has a background in St. Petersburg real estate.
The former Council of Neighborhood Associations representative states he is focused on preserving historical neighborhoods and spaces, but also aims to build on economic opportunities such as the Tropicana Field site and the abandoned Tangerine Plaza grocery store.
“We can’t be the region that loses a Major League Baseball team our community worked decades to get,” Blackmon writes on his campaign site.
Next District 1 Councilmember: Bobbie Shay Lee vs. Copley Gerdes
Former NFL cheerleader, breast cancer advocate and survivor Bobbie Shay Lee has a primary focus on crime in the St. Petersburg area, along with waterway health and keeping the Rays in the city.
“It used to feel safe here, now as a parent myself, the rise in crime and human trafficking is terrifying,” she states on her website. “One peak at the Juvenile Welfare Board statistics shows we are desperately failing to provide for the children in this community. “
Lee is new to local politics, and so is opponent Copley Gerdes, son of former District 1 Councilmember Charlie Gerdes, who shares many of Lee’s priorities.
Gerdes, a financial advisor, is looking to develop infrastructure in the area through growing local business and improving the roadways. He had the lead in the primary, but cut it close with 33.81%, while Lee followed with 33.76% of the votes.
Next District 2 Councilmember: Brandi Gabbard
Incumbent Brandi Gabbard works as a real estate agent when she’s not sitting on council. She won District 2 by default when her competitor, Kyle Hall, withdrew from the race in September.
Gabbard, a registered Democrat, focuses on protecting small businesses and providing affordable housing.
“As we look forward, I promise to continue working on the issues everyday that matter to you,” Gabbard said in a video on her website.
Next District 4 Councilmember: Lisset Hanewicz vs. Tom Mullins
Lisset Hanewicz, the daughter of Cuban exiles, is an attorney with her own private practice.
The University of Florida Alumni isn’t originally from St. Petersburg, but is active in the community as President of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association, co-founder of Friends of Woodlawn Elementary, a board member of the Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation and a former Membership Chair for the Council of Neighborhood Associations.
Hanewicz won the primary with 42% of the vote. Her opponent, Tom Mullins, received 24% and is an investment banker with Raymond James. A conservative, Mullins states increasing business and lowering property taxes are some of his top priorities.
“More Jobs, More Friends and More Cool Stuff,” is the businessman’s slogan.
Next District 6 Councilmember: Mhariel Summers vs. Gina Driscoll
The primary for District 6 was canceled, but the November 2 vote will be between incumbent Gina Driscoll and first-time political candidate Mhariel Summers, who worked on the Charlie Crist Campaign, managed the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum and recently served as the District Secretary for Florida State Representative Michele Rayner of District 70.
District 6 incumbent Driscoll is focused on affordable housing, green issues, increasing transportation mobility and expanding education.
Both candidates are Democrats and represent similar issues on different platforms.
Next District 8 Councilmember: Jeff Danner vs. Richie Floyd
Pinellas County science teacher Richie Floyd is running for council with a grassroots campaign focused on “better jobs, affordable housing, and social and environmental justice.”
The proclaimed “community activist” won the primary with 51.81% of the vote.
Jeff Danner, a former construction worker and St. Petersburg Councilmember in 2005, followed with 27%. He’s president of the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood and a supporter of affordable housing and small business.
The former councilmember is against quick development of the Tropicana Field site, stating the project needs more community input and less rash action.