Last Friday at the Hangar Restaurant, over 50 members attended Now Trending: Inside the Election sponsored by Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, featuring Peter Schorsch of SaintPetersBlog and Extensive Enterprises, who provided polling numbers and insight in this year’s election, 2017 city election, and 2018 statewide elections.
While the Presidential campaigns have drawn the most attention nationally, there are still several important elections locally that will impact St. Petersburg. The most notable is the Congressional District 13 race between former Governor Charlie Crist and Congressman David Jolly. Various polls differ on how many points separate Crist from Jolly, but amount raised and spent by the Crist campaign to unseat Rep. Jolly dwarfs the amount raised by the Republican incumbent, Rep. Jolly.
The US Senate race between Sen. Marco Rubio and Congressman Patrick Murphy is within striking distance for Rep. Murphy to unseat Sen. Rubio, but the Democratic Party hasn’t shown that they are willing to make the investment in campaign ad buys to challenge the incumbent in the final weeks of the campaign.
Other than the Pinellas County Commission race between businessman Mike Mikurak and Chair of the County Commission, Charlie Justice, there isn’t much competition. Schorsch stated that while Mikurak has fundraised very well and has run a great campaign, he believes that Commissioner Justice hasn’t done anything to show voters why he should be replaced on the County Commission. The news of the $16.5M lawsuit against the County is damaging, but Schorsch stated that voters most likely won’t feel it’s enough to warrant him losing his seat on the County Commission.
Schorsch believes Amendment 1 (Solar) will be defeated on election day, but thought it would pass a month until the recent controversy surrounding misleading the voters on what the solar legislation would actually. Amendment 2 (Medical Marijuana) will get over the 60% hurdle, but Schorsch said that future changes to the constitutional amendment will be needed once medical marijuana dispensaries start locating in Florida communities.
Looking towards 2017, former Mayor Baker will feel the pressure to challenge Mayor Rick Kriseman. The recent stormwater problems and the delays on the Pier construction will be a liability for Mayor Kriseman when the qualifying period begins next year.
In 2018, there will be several open statewide seats, including Chief Financial Officer, Agricultural Commissioner, Governor, US Senate (Sen. Nelson’s seat). If Sen. Brandes decides to run for a statewide seat, then his vacancy sets off a ripple effect in Pinellas County politics. Sen. Latvala’s name has been mentioned for Governor. Other names mentioned for Florida Governor in 2018 include; Jeff Atwater, CFO of Florida; Rick Baker, former Mayor of St. Petersburg; Richard Corcoran, State Representative; Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas; Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture; Will Weatherford, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives; Congresswoman Gwen Graham; and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Governor Rick Scott has been mentioned as the top Republican candidate to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson.