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St. Pete decides: Results and reactions to city council races, charter amendments

Mark Parker

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St. Pete City Hall
St. Petersburg City Hall, courtesy of St. Pete Flickr.

While much of the attention following St. Petersburg’s municipal elections on Tuesday centered on Ken Welch’s historic mayoral victory, residents also made several other decisions that will shape the city’s future for years to come.

In addition to selecting its first new mayor since 2014, the city also decided four city council races – including Robert Blackmon’s vacated seat as he opposed Welch in the mayoral race.

Seven city charter amendments were also on the ballot, a rare occurrence that only happens once every 10 years. The rarity of the occasion was not enough to woo voters, however, as only two amendments passed.

As with the mayoral race, city council contests are nonpartisan. While primary voting was limited to a candidate’s district, the general elections are open to residents across St. Pete. Here are the full results and reactions.

Copley Gerdes, a financial planner whose father Charlie Gerdes served on city council, defeated Bobbie Shay Lee in District 1. Gerdes received 53.69% of the vote to Lee’s 46.31% and will now occupy Blackmon’s spot on the dais.

Lisset Hanewicz, a former prosecutor of Cuban descent, takes over for Darden Rice in District 4. Rice was also a mayoral candidate and term-limited. Hanewicz received 54.27% of the vote Tom Mullins’ 45.28%, and will now become the first Hispanic to serve on the St. Petersburg City Council.

Incumbent Gina Driscoll secured a decisive victory over newcomer Mhariel Summers in District 6. Driscoll, previously an executive in the hospitality and tourism industry, received 69.71% of the votes to Summers’ 30.29%.

By far, the closest race of the night was between Jeff Danner and Richie Floyd. Floyd, a local teacher, defeated Danner in District 8 in a race that was too close to call until 10 p.m. The final unofficial tally shows Floyd received 50.70% of the vote while Danner, a former council member, claimed 49.30%. While a small margin, the 1.4% difference is much larger than the .5% that would trigger a recount.

For all the debate on potential charter amendments, the once-a-decade recommendations by the Charter Review Commission (CRC) were mostly disregarded by voters.

Charter Amendment No. 1 could have changed the way the city selects its council members. Currently, voters across the city vote on city council candidates in the general election. This has the potential to undermine the preferences of voters within that candidate’s district. Funding a city-wide campaign is also more expensive than focusing on a specific district, and the CRC believes this puts minority candidates at an unfair advantage.

Changing city council races to single-district voting was struck down, with 58.7% of residents voting no to the change.

Charter Amendment No. 2 would establish a new process for drawing district boundaries for city council members. It would also require council members to live in the district they represent for 12 months after taking office. Currently, a candidate is only required to live in the district for 12 months prior to the election.

Voters rejected the change, with 56.23% voting no.

Charter Amendment No. 3 would create a City Equity Officer position to eliminate equity gaps in the city. Current Mayor Rick Kriseman is a vocal proponent of the measure; however, 55.07% of voters said no to the amendment.

Charter Amendment No. 4 also dealt with equity, as it would establish a requirement for charter-protected equity funding. The measure would prevent equity funding from being used for other purposes. Voters were not in favor of this measure either, with 56.20% voting no.

Charter Amendment No. 5 would establish new requirements for the City Administrator, City Clerk, and City Council Administrative Officer. This amendment would add a residency requirement for the City Administrator, require a City Clerk’s removal to have both the mayor’s and city council’s consent, and provide the City Council Administrative Officer with the same protections and duties as the City Clerk.

Charter Amendment No. 5 is one of two proposals voters approved, with 58.41% voting yes.

Charter Amendment No. 6 would change the city’s charter review process to avoid conflicting with the redistricting process. Both processes occur every 10 years, in years ending in one. A decisive 70.02% of voters also said yes to this amendment.

Charter Amendment No. 7 would add a preamble to better describe the spirit of the charter and the city’s governing philosophy. The aspirational statement would describe the city’s vision, goals, values and priorities while acknowledging past shortcomings. Residents did not approve the addition, as 52.66% voted no.

A referendum that would provide the city council with the authority to grant economic development tax exemptions was also narrowly defeated, with 50.08% voting no to the expansion of power.

 

 

 

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