Election Highlight 4-8-16

Now that the legislative session has ended, many candidates have resumed campaign activities. With the primary scheduled for August 30th 2016, we want to make sure you are familiar with the major candidates in the races. This week we will be focusing on the local races in Pinellas, Polk, and Pasco Counties. We will not be discussing all of the candidates in the races, or all of the offices up for election. Some races have many candidates filed, but only a few have done actual fundraising. For this highlight we will discuss those we see as series candidates in close races, however if things change over the summer we will update you accordingly.
Pinellas County Commission District 3
The Position
The State constitution gives the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners the power to adopt ordinances, approve the County budget and set millages, and establish the requirements for the departments under its control. The Board governs all unincorporated areas of the county directly; municipalities may call upon the County for specialized services.
The Candidates
There are two candidates running for the District 3 seat. The Democrat in the race is Charlie Justice and his Republican opposition is Michael Mikurak.
Charlie Justice (D) is an incumbent in the race. He was elected to the Pinellas County Commission in 2012 and serves on the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority Board (TBARTA) and the Health and Human Services Leadership Board. Before serving as a Commissioner, Justice served in the Florida Senate from 2006 to 2010 and in the Florida House from 2000 to 2006.
Michael Mikurak (R) is the Republican challenger in the race. Mike retired from Accenture, Plc. in 2003, where he was an original partner having played an integral part in taking the company public. While with the company, Mike consulted with Fortune 500 companies in business strategy and supply chain management. He holds 10 patents in Business Collaboration and e-learning, and serves on numerous community boards in the area.
Pinellas County School Board District 1
The Position
The mission of the Pinellas County School Board is to provide the best opportunities for all students to succeed by adopting policies that ensure continual improvement of highest student achievement, safe learning environment and effective, efficient operation. As the governing body of the Pinellas County school district, the School Board is responsible for the control, operation, organization, management and administration of schools in Pinellas County.
The Candidates
This year the District 1 seat is open. The three candidates running for the position are William Dudley, Joanne Lentino, and Matthew Stewart.
William Dudley (NP) is a former St. Petersburg City Council member who is seeking election to the Pinellas County School Board. Before being elected to the City Council, Dudley worked for the Pinellas County school system for 37 years. They issues he is running on include student attendance, early childhood education, the budget and teaching conditions.
Joanne Lentino (NP) is also running for the District 1 seat. Janet is a former Pinellas County Public Schools first grade teacher, who stays involved in the schools by tutoring and mentoring students.
Matthew Stewart (NP) is also vying for the seat. Stewart is currently a Deputy Director for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and Adjunct Faculty for St. Petersburg College, in the College of Policy, Ethics, and Legal Studies. He has earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction from the College of Education at USF, M.A. in Religious Studies from USF, M.A. in Theology (SVdP), and B.A. in Philosophy (SJV).
Pinellas County School Board District 5
The Position
The mission of the Pinellas County School Board is to provide the best opportunities for all students to succeed by adopting policies that ensure continual improvement of highest student achievement, safe learning environment and effective, efficient operation. As the governing body of the Pinellas County school district, the School Board is responsible for the control, operation, organization, management and administration of schools in Pinellas County.
The Candidates
There are three candidates running for the District 5 seat. The first is Carol Cook, who is the incumbent in the race. Her opponents are Michael Petruccelli and Eliseo Santana Jr.
Carol Cook (NP) is running for a fifth term for the District 5 seat, serving on the school board since 2000. She is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and taught elementary school in Pinellas County for ten years. Prior to her election, Cook served on the Florida PTA Board of Directors for nine years.
Michael Petruccelli (NP) is a licensed real estate and insurance broker from Indian Shores. He is running to end the School Board’s bureaucracy and to stop the achievement gap from growing.
Eliseo Santana Jr. (NP) is a retired communications maintenance supervisor at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Santana was inspired to run by a Tampa Bay Times series that documented the issues of five failing schools in Pinellas. His platform is based on creating an efficient system that advocates for teachers and strays from excessive emphasis on testing.
Polk County Commission District 3
The Position
The Board of County Commissioners is the governing body of Polk County, as established by the Florida Constitution, and serves as the legislative branch of county government, as defined in the county charter.
The Candidates
This year the District 3 seat is open, as Commissioner Edwin Smith is not running for reelection. The two candidates running for the seat are Republican William Braswell and Republican J.C. Martin.
William Braswell (R) is an Auburndale blueberry farmer and former Delta Airlines pilot. Braswell served Eight years active duty in the US Air Force, followed by 14 years of service in the US Air Force Reserves, retiring as a Major. He is President of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association and serves on the Polk County Farm Bureau.
J.C. Martin (R) is a Commercial Manager of Kelly Buick GMC in Bartow. He also worked as a Firefight and EMT for over 13 years. Martin is known as a conservative activist, and is running to make sure that the government lives within its means.
Pasco County Commissioner District 1
The Position
The Board of County Commissioners is the legislative and policy making body of County government. The five members of the Board are elected Countywide from all districts. The Board appoints the County Administrator and the County Attorney and confirms the appointment of department heads. It also establishes policy and makes all budget decisions with regard to appropriation of funds to County Departments, Divisions and some Constitutional Officers.
The Candidates
There are three Republican candidates running for the open District 1 seat. The candidates are Rachel O’Connor, Ron Oakley, and Deborah Wells.
Rachel O’Connor (R) is a USF graduate with a Master’s Degree in Comparative Politics and International Relations, and a Bachelors in Political Science. She has been involved with Pasco’s Republican Executive committee for several years, and is a former Republican Party of Florida Field Representative, managing a five county area and coordinating over 500 volunteers.
Ronald Eugene Oakley (R) is a citrus farmer who has a degree in Accounting from Carson-Newman College. He has also served as Chairman of the board for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. He is running to reduce taxes and replacing the county administrator.
Deborah Wells (R) is the director of sales for the Tampa division of Meritage Homes. She is a College of Orlando Graduate, who has spent over 25 years working in corporate environments.