Over 200,000 residents exercised their right to vote Tuesday, helping shape Pinellas County’s future for years to come.
While the closed primary generally frames races for the Nov. 8 general elections, Pinellas voters still elected two school board members and settled a county commission contest. According to the Supervisor of Elections Office, 219,209 residents, or nearly 32% of registered voters, cast their ballots.
Election officials called that turnout – which bested 2018 and 2020 numbers – “phenomenal” and said the response exceeded expectations.
“People are excited about the process,” said Pinellas Deputy Supervisor of Elections Dustin Chase. “They were excited about their choices, and they came out on a beautiful Pinellas County day to cast their ballots.”
Chase said there were no administrative surprises throughout the day, and the county’s extensive election apparatus worked without a hitch. The elections office will continue the certification process and release the first set of certified unofficial results Friday. Later that day, the supervisor will release the official results before conducting a complete audit of all contests and ballots.
Chase expects the “incredible voter enthusiasm” to carry into the general election in less than three months.
“People appear to be very interested in these contests,” he said. “And we’re looking forward to making sure that they have access to voter registration and ballots.”
Pinellas County Commission
Incumbent Republican and former Commission Chair Dave Eggers will return for another term on the board. The Dunedin resident cruised to a victory over fellow Republican Heather Aynne Vernillo, securing nearly 68% of the vote. Eggers won the seat outright as there are no Democratic challengers in District 4.
Eggers relayed Tuesday morning that he is “committed to defending our conservative values on the Pinellas County Commission.”
Republican businessman Brian Scott handily defeated Debbie Buschman, a Palm Harbor Special Fire Control & Rescue Commissioner, for the board’s District 2 seat. Scott, a Largo resident who owns Escot Bus Lines, received 66% of the vote and will now face incumbent Democrat Pat Gerard in November.
Gerard, also from Largo, has served on the board since 2014. A Scott win in the general election would flip the commission’s slim Democratic majority, a stated goal for the candidate.
“Liberal career politicians are fighting tooth and nail to prevent that,” said Scott in an Aug. 6 Tweet. “But I know I am the best candidate to get the job done in November.”
Three commission candidates ran unopposed – Republican Chris Latvala in District 5, Republican Kathleen Peters in District 6 and Democrat Rene Flowers in District 7.
The Pinellas School Board had four seats up for grabs, with voters deciding two races Tuesday. Incumbents Lisa Cane and Caprice Edmond secured enough votes to avoid a November runoff.
In District 7, 65% of voters cast their ballots for Edmond, who defeated Maria Di Fiore Solanki. Both candidates are St. Petersburg residents. Following her victory, Edmond thanked voters, volunteers, donors and supporters in a social media post.
“We won, Pinellas!” said Edmond. “I look forward to continuing to work with and for you.”
The District 2 race was closer, with Cane facing two challengers in Brad DeCorte and Bronson Oudshoff. However, the incumbent avoided a runoff by securing 55.6% of the vote. Cane, a Palm Harbor resident, said she could not thank the county enough in a Tuesday night statement.
“I am humbled and overwhelmed!” said Cane. “I promise to give it my all again in the next four years!”
Pinellas residents will have to wait until November to see who will emerge from Districts 3 and 6, as all six candidates failed to cross the 50% threshold.
Keesha Benson, a St. Petersburg resident and community advocate, garnered the most votes in at-large District 3, with 40%. Finishing just behind her was Dawn Peters, also of St. Pete and an active school volunteer and president of a veterans services group, with 38% of the vote. The two will now head to a November runoff.
Stephanie Meyer, a private Christian school teacher and adjunct professor at Hillsborough Community College, received 47% of the vote in District 6. Brian Martin, a chemical engineer and small business owner, finished second with 39%. Both candidates are St. Petersburg residents and will face each other again in the general election.