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Pinellas County Commission candidates speak at virtual League of Women Voters forum [Video]

Jaymi Butler

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The League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area held its third Thursdays Nights With The League virtual forum Sept. 17, featuring the candidates seeking election to the Pinellas County Commission. They are: 

District 1 at-large:

  • Janet Long (D), the incumbent, who has served on the commission since 2012. Areas of interest include protecting the community from Covid-19, improving transportation and safeguarding the environment.
  • Larry Ahern (R), a former state representative who served Florida’s 66th district in northwestern Pinellas County from 2012 to 2018. His campaign issues include implementing term limits for elected officials and support for business owners and law enforcement officers. Ahern declined to attend Thursday’s discussion.

District 3 at-large:

  • Charlie Justice (D), the incumbent who has served as a commissioner since 2012. His priorities include protecting the environment, support for education and issues surrounding poverty and human rights. 
  • Tammy Vasquez, an entrepreneur who owns Bark Life Inc., a pet boarding, day care and grooming facility. Her interest areas include support for small businesses, term limits and funding for law enforcement officers and first responders. Vasquez declined to attend Thursday’s discussion.

District 7

  • Rene Flowers, (D), a former city council member who currently serves on the school board. Her interests include affordable housing, support for small, minority and women-owned businesses, the environment and economic development. 
  • Maria Scruggs, (NPA),  the president of the NAACP St. Petersburg chapter who has extensive background in law enforcement and nonprofits. Interest areas include support for small businesses, and preparing young people for job opportunities.

Due to League rules regarding the procedure when only one candidate is present, Flowers and Scruggs were the only participants in the question-and-answer segment. Long and Justice shared their platforms and achievements live during the meeting, while moderator K.W. “Ken” Wrede read statements provided by Ahern and Vasquez. 

Flowers and Scruggs answered questions on what they will do to address food insecurity in Pinellas County, how the county can keep its Covid-19 numbers low while supporting small businesses, how they would prioritize the county’s remaining greenspace, their strategies for helping people who’ve lost jobs during the pandemic and how they would remedy negative impact of climate change on low income and minority communities through policy change.

The next forum, which will be held Thursday (Sept. 24) at 7 p.m. will feature a live question-and-answer session where viewers can submit queries on the topic of voting. The final forum will feature the candidates for the Pinellas County Tax Collector Oct. 1. For more information, click here.

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