Tampa Bay Times

Driscoll faces challenger for St. Petersburg council position

- WILLIAM MARCH Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.

Brett Vickers, a St. Petersburg real estate agent and philanthro­pist, has filed to run for the District 6 City Council seat against incumbent Gina Driscoll.

Vickers, 57, a first-time candidate, said he has no history in politics or government but extensive involvemen­t in local nonprofit organizati­ons through a charitable foundation of his wife’s family. Lisa Vickers is the daughter of the late Roy Speer, founder of Home Shopping Network.

Originally from Long Island, Vickers has been in Florida since 1994 and St. Petersburg since 2001. The couple live in Roser Park and have four grown children.

Vickers recently sued mayoral candidate Vince Nowicki over an investment by Vickers in a company Nowicki was starting. The suit was dismissed in March after a settlement whose terms prohibit Vickers from discussing it, he said. He said the litigation had nothing to do with his decision to run for the City Council.

“I’ve had a lot of people approach me in the past” about running for office, he said. “I never seriously considered it until a group of community leaders came to me and expressed that they weren’t getting proper support” for revitaliza­tion efforts in Midtown and southern St Petersburg.

“My feeling is St. Pete has flourished and the South Side and Midtown have remained stagnant. I’m pretty much a visionary, so I believe I have some good initiative­s to bring to the table” for economic developmen­t and helping small businesses recover from the pandemic.

Among the charities Vickers has been involved in, he said, are the Kind Mouse food pantry, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Alpha House, the Speer YMCA PreSchool and Ryan’s Club.

Driscoll, a sales and marketing executive, is seeking her second term on the council and raised $33,898 in her first two months as a candidate.

She’s announced endorsemen­ts from the AFL-CIO’s West Central Florida Labor Council, the city chapter of the Internatio­nal Associatio­n of Firefighte­rs and Equality Florida Action.

Rematch brewing in Pasco race

A 2022 rematch is shaping up between Pasco County Commission­er Christina Fitzpatric­k and Gary Bradford, who narrowly lost to Fitzpatric­k in a special election for the District 4 commission­er’s seat last year.

Both have filed early for the 2022 election for a full four-year term in the seat.

Fitzpatric­k narrowly edged out Bradford in an upset in 2020, in part because only Republican candidates filed for the seat, creating a universal primary in which Democrats and others could vote. Florida law requires a universal primary when the primary will decide the election.

It’s too early to predict whether that will happen again in 2022, according to both candidates and other political insiders.

Most insiders had considered Bradford last year’s frontrunne­r. He had backing from prominent Republican­s, including Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Sheriff Chris Nocco, and out-fundraised Fitzpatric­k by 15-1.

She won by 815 votes, or about 1.1 percentage points.

Bradford, 62, is a retired Tampa police officer and lobbyist for the politicall­y influentia­l Police Benevolent Associatio­n, and a familiar figure in Tampa Bay area and Tallahasse­e political circles.

Fitzpatric­k is a tax preparer, marketing executive and head of a private school, one of a number of nonprofit organizati­ons she has founded or worked with in Pasco County. Her community involvemen­t, often cited as helping make her competitiv­e politicall­y, has focused on special-needs children.

The district leans Republican, but includes much of Fitzpatric­k’s hometown, New Port Richey, an area less GOP-leaning than the rest of the county.

Fitzpatric­k, 36, was a registered Democrat until January 2019, when she switched parties. She said she initially registered in high school at a time when she thought little about politics. “I lived and I learned,” she said. She said she voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

The District 4 seat came open for the special election after former Commission­er Mike Wells resigned to run for property appraiser in October 2019.

Bradford, Fitzpatric­k and Pasco County Democratic Party Chair Kelly Smith said they consider it likely that more Democrats and no-party voters voted for Fitzpatric­k than Bradford in 2020.

Smith said she hopes a Democrat will run next year but isn’t aware of any potential candidate, and that the party won’t focus on recruiting one. “We’ll get a better return on our investment focusing on the governor’s race,” she said.

But if any non-Republican files in the race — even a write-in candidate whose name wouldn’t appear on the ballot and who wouldn’t have to pay a filing fee — the “write-in loophole” in election law would close the primary so only Republican­s could vote. There have been instances when such candidates were recruited for the purpose of closing primaries.

Fitzpatric­k said Bradford told her and others at a recent party event that he intended to make sure the primary was closed.

“That’s a bald-faced lie,” he responded. “That would be illegal, and I certainly wouldn’t jeopardize the pension I worked for. What I told her was something like, ‘We’ll see how we do in a closed primary.’ ”

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Christina Fitzpatric­k
Christina Fitzpatric­k
 ??  ?? Gary Bradford
Gary Bradford
 ??  ?? Brett Vickers
Brett Vickers

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