Local politicians campaigned in person, with signs, social media and advertising along with answering questions in public forums to vie for city government seats in Gulfport and South Pasadena.
On Tuesday, March 13, voters in two municipal elections made the following choices according to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Deborah Clark:
In the Ward 1 race, incumbent and Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke decisively won re-election over challenger Bruce A. Plesser.
In unofficial results from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, 66.31 percent of the voters chose Liedtke while 33.69 percent selected Plesser.
“My initial reaction was, if you cannot speak to the local issues you’re not going to win local office,” said Liedtke during an exclusive election night interview with the Gabber. “The priorities are infrastructure, public safety and we’d like to find a way to build a bigger and modern senior center. Going through a campaign is an excellent opportunity for learning things. I’m honored to have the support and confidence of the people of Gulfport and I look forward to continuing to serve.”
Liedtke is attending the National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C. representing Gulfport. In addition to learning about challenges being faced by other municipal- and county-level politicians, he will be meeting with state and federal level elected officials representing Florida. On Wednesday, March 14, he was scheduled to meet with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, as well as planning to meet with people in the offices of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist.
“They help us to understand where some of the challenges are at the federal level,” said Liedtke.
Conversely, by meeting with Nelson, Rubio and Crist, locally elected councilmembers “help them to understand what the challenges are in Gulfport because they’re not at the street level like we are,” said Liedtke. “There is a lot of opportunity on both sides.”
In Ward 3, Paul Ray ran unopposed and therefore automatically won.
As of the February 12 registration deadline, there were 9,160 eligible voters in Gulfport. The city has three polling locations and seven precincts, six of which contain registered voters. All registered voters are eligible to vote citywide, regardless of what ward they live in.
On election day, 376 people voted at the polls while 1,512 opted to return absentee mail-in ballots. A total of 1,888 people voted representing a turnout of 21 percent.
According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website, election turnout history is as follows: March 2017: 1,808 ballots were cast (20.30 percent); March 2016: 4,684 ballots were cast (53.34 percent); March 2014: 3,814 ballots were cast (44.09 percent); March 2013: 2,742 ballots were cast (31.98 percent).
Four candidates were competing for two seats on the city commission. All registered voters voted citywide for up to two candidates. The two candidates with the most votes won.
Gail M. Neidinger won re-election with 763 votes and Arthur Penny was elected with 657 votes. Losing were Lari Johnson who received 499 votes and Dan Calabria who received 247.
As of the February 12 registration deadline, there were 3,913 eligible voters. The city has one polling location and one precinct. According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, voter turnout was 31.20 percent with 153 people voting at City Hall while 1,068 opted to use absentee ballots.
St. Pete Beach
The city canceled their election because the number of qualified candidates did not exceed the number of offices up for election.
Incumbents Terri Finnerty of District 1, and Vice Mayor Ward Friszolowski of District 3 both ran unopposed and were therefore automatically elected.
For more local election information along with unofficial and official results throughout Pinellas County, visit votepinellas.com.