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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mike Twitty wins contest by default to be Pinellas County property appraiser

Republican Mike Twitty will be the next Pinellas County property appraiser. His write-in challenger withdrew Monday from the contest.


Republican Mike Twitty will be the next Pinellas County property appraiser. His write-in challenger withdrew Monday from the contest.

As candidates wait for the polls to close Tuesday, Mike Twitty can already celebrate his victory to be the next Pinellas County property appraiser.

He won the race Monday after the write-in challenger withdrew from the contest.

Twitty, who won the Republican primary in August, was slated to face write-in challenger Joseph Catalano. He had not raised any campaign contributions and faced a monumental task of beating Twitty.

"It's kind of weird," Twitty said Tuesday. "I was so geared up to having to wait. It's bittersweet."

Twitty has been a real estate appraiser for more than 26 years and has been the principal officer of his firm, Valbridge Property Advisors, for more than 23 years.

Twitty said he is in the process of divesting himself from the business and will be ready to take the oath of office on Jan. 3.

Once in office, Twitty wants to add more information to the website and make it friendlier for mobile users.

In the primary, Twitty won 60 percent of the vote compared to 40 percent for Jim Frishe, a businessman and former state lawmaker. Of the 72,234 votes in the contest, Twiity won 43 percent from mail ballots.  …

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Largo business conducts presidential cookie poll: The treats have Hillary by 180 cookies

   Frida Alipour's presidential cookie poll has successfully predicted the outcome of the election ever since Alipour started it at Frida's, her bakery in Largo, back in  2004. She conducts the poll by keeping track of the number of cookies sold with either Trump or Clinton decorated on top, When we checked in about two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were neck and neck.

    At 2 p.m. Nov. 7,  Alipour shared up-to-date results. "The cookie graph has been up and down with daily scandals being revealed about each candidate throughout this election,'' Alipour said. "As of this morning, Hillary is currently in the lead by about four percent.''

   Going into election day, customers have bought 1,824 Clinton cookies and 1,644 Trump cookies.






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Rays to Montreal rumor mill starts up again

The World Series is over. And the hot-stove league's embers are firing up.

On Sunday, a Montreal freelance journalist, Pierre Trudel, tweeted that Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg had commissioned a viability study for a baseball stadium in Montreal's Griffin Town neighborhood.

Trudel, who has 14,000 followers, didn't attribute his information to anyone. Nor has he followed up, at least on Twitter. 

But Trudel's  three tweets in French caught the attention of Noah Pransky, a 10NewsWTSP investigative reporter who also blogs about Rays stadium issues at "Shadow of the Stadium."

Pransky asked the Rays for comment Monday. He got a statement from team president Brian Auld, later sent to the Tampa Bay Times, reaffirming the Rays commitment to the Tampa Bay region:  

"While there continues to be speculation surrounding the Rays future, we remain committed to keeping Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come," Auld said.

The Rays have been searching for a new ballpark site in the Tampa Bay region since the St. Petersburg City Council amended the city's agreement with the team in January. Tampa and Hillsborough County are trying to figure out stadium financing.  …

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Pinellas deputy cruiser hits press bus in Tim Kaine's motorcade

ST. PETERSBURG — Two deputies were involved in a crash Saturday night that damaged the press bus in Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine's motorcade.

At about 9:15 p.m., the motorcade was driving onto Interstate 375 from Eighth Street North following a Get Out the Vote rally at the State Theater in St. Petersburg. He was escorted by members of the U.S. Secret Service and deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. 

A deputy stopped a car in the median lane to allow the motorcade to pass, according to the sheriff's office. Another deputy also pulled into the median lane, which caused Deputy Alexander Ellis to stop his cruiser.

Deputy Wayne Wagner was driving behind Ellis and did not see him stop. Wagner swerved toward the middle lane to avoid hitting Ellis' cruiser, investigators said.

Wagner's cruiser hit the back passenger side of Ellis' cruiser then crossed through the middle lane into the curb lane, where it hit a bus full of journalists.

No one was injured in the crash, the sheriff's office said. The bus and Ellis' cruiser had minor damage, and the bus was able to continue with the motorcade. Wagner's cruiser was towed to the sheriff's office.

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Justice Department to monitor Hillsborough County, 66 other jurisdictions on Election Day

Election Technology Director Shawn Huston tests a which counts votes on a ballot Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at the Supervisor of Elections Hillsborough County headquarters in Tampa. The machine will count 200-300 ballots a minute.

Chris Urso, Times

Election Technology Director Shawn Huston tests a which counts votes on a ballot Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at the Supervisor of Elections Hillsborough County headquarters in Tampa. The machine will count 200-300 ballots a minute.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County is one of 67 jurisdictions across the country that the U.S. Department of Justice will monitor on Election Day.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights division will deploy 500 personnel to 28 states, including to five Florida counties, on Tuesday to ensure pollworkers and local governments follow federal voting rights laws.

In addition to Hillsborough County, the Justice Department will send representatives to Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties, according to a press release. Florida will have the second most jurisdictions monitored, trailing only Connecticut, which will have monitors in seven areas.

“The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote, and the Department of Justice works tirelessly to uphold that right not only on Election Day, but every day,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides.” …

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In bellwether Hillsborough, Dems beat GOP in early voting but trend close to 2012

Early voters wait in line to cast their ballots during the Souls to the Polls event at the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library on 2607 E Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Tampa on Sunday.

Octavio Jones, Times

Early voters wait in line to cast their ballots during the Souls to the Polls event at the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library on 2607 E Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Tampa on Sunday.

TAMPA — In the critical Florida bellwether of Hillsborough County, 28,000 more Democrats than Republicans have already cast ballots.

But Republicans had a slightly larger jump in early voters compared to 2012 than Democrats did.

In all, 419,667 voters cast mail-in ballots or voted early — 24 percent more than in 2012 — representing half of all registered voters. That’s right: Before polls even open on Nov. 8, 50 percent of registered voters have already collected their “I Voted” stickers.

Among them, 176,393 were Democrats compared to 148,080 Republicans. Another 95,194 independents or people without a party affiliation voted as well.

The latter group actually saw the largest increase in voters from four years ago — 28,027. Meanwhile, Democratic early turnout was up 26,353 from 2012 and the GOP jumped 27,346.

President Barack Obama won Hillsborough County in 2012 by 36,000 en route to winning Florida by less than 75,000 out of more than 8.4 million ballots cast.

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Florida Dems want Shawn Harrison advertisement taken off air

State House District 63 candidate Lisa Montelione

Courtesy photo

State House District 63 candidate Lisa Montelione

The Florida Democratic Party is asking Brighthouse Networks to stop airing an political TV spot for Republican state House District 63 candidate Shawn Harrison that it says illegally uses copyrighted material.

In a cease and desist letter sent to the TV station today, Florida Democratic Party attorney Mark Herron claims that 15 seconds of copyrighted footage was illegally used by Harrison, an example of "classic copyright infringement."  

Harrison’s advertisement takes aim at one aired by his Democratic opponent Lisa Montelione that features a film set and a chair with her picture and claims she is too busy helping people to be on set.

His 30-second TV spot appears to use some of the same footage while blasting her for missing votes on the Tampa City Council.

“Shawn Harrison’s clearly illegal actions are the sign of a desperate campaign struggling to stay afloat,” said Anders Croy, Florida Democratic Party communications director in a statement. “This is what a candidate does when his values and record do not align with the district he is seeking to represent. We look forward to this ad being swiftly taken down.” …

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March column: Money returned, complaint dismissed, press invades

Excerpts from William March's column in this Sunday's Tampa Tribune. Read the full column here.

Candidate in non-partisan Tampa council race returns $1,000 GOP donation

A Florida Elections Commission complaint has been filed over a county Republican Party campaign contribution to Tampa City Council candidate Jim Davison.

The complaint was filed by Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chairman Ione Townsend.

Good news and bad news for Montelione

Lisa Montelione, the Democratic Tampa City Council member who is challenging Republican District 63 state House member Shawn Harrison, got some good news and some bad news. The good news: endorsements by a raft of labor groups. The bad news: She didn't get endorsed by the Hillsborough County Democratic Party black caucus.

Ethics complaint against Jones dismissed

The Florida Commission on Ethics has dismissed a complaint against Republican property appraiser candidate Todd Jones over his initially incomplete financial disclosure form.

Foreign reporters swarm Hillsborough …

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DCCC targets black voters in 13th Congressional District

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Thursday will take a final run at black voters to get them to the polls in support of Charlie Crist.

The recently redrawn Pinellas County congressional district has added predominantly black neighborhoods in Midtown, Childs Park and other southern St. Petersburg neighborhoods.

The ads will feature President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama urging black voters to cast ballots for Crist and Orlando area Democrat Stephanie Murphy, who is running in the 7th District.

Here's an excerpt from President Obama:

" We have the opportunity to build on all the progress we’ve made, to fight for the issues you and I believe in. I’m doing everything I can to make sure our Democrats all around the country have what they need to win, and that’s why I need you. I need you to vote. I need you to make sure your friends, family and neighbors vote."

The African-American vote has become a flashpoint in the race between Crist and incumbent Republican David Jolly. 

On Wednesday, Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon, visited St. Petersburg where he appeared with Crist. 



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Kriseman switches course on Albert Whitted, proposes wide-ranging fix

Mayor Rick Kriseman told City Council members Thursday that if the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series, then St. Petersburg can fix its broken sewer system.

Of course, it took 108 years for the Cubs to hoist the trophy.

Kriseman unveiled $45 million plan that he said would provide short-term relief to the city's beleagured system in a year, although most of the fixes won't be in place until the end of next year's rainy season.

In the next five years, the mayor proposes $259 million to fix pipes, seal leaky manhole covers and expand capacity in its three existing plants.

But, in a major shift, Kriseman and Public Works Chief Claude Tankersley said reopening the shuttered Albert Whitted plan was no longer at the top of the list.

Last month, Tankersley had recommended reopening the plant, which had closed in 2015. Within months of that closure, the first of what turned out to be about 200 million gallons of sewage spilled, sparking a sewage crisis that has consumed the council and mayor's attention. …

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Hillsborough commissioners give $1 million to college football national championship game

The 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship will be held in Tampa.

Courtesy of Raymond James Stadium

The 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship will be held in Tampa.

TAMPA -- Hillsborough County will give $1 million to help host the upcoming college football championship at Raymond James Stadium, commissioners decided today.

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission, the nonprofit agency that recruits sporting events to the region and is in charge of putting on the Jan. 9 game in Tampa, will use the money for operational expenses like security and ticket takers, local transportation for the teams, accommodating the flood of national media and adding 6,600 extra seats into Raymond James for the Jan. 9 game.

“This is an incredible opportunity to showcase our community,” Commissioner Ken Hagan said.

The $1 million will come from tourist development taxes, also known as the bed tax, which is collected on every dollar spent at hotels, motels and RV parks.

The bed tax is restricted to certain uses, like building tourism facilities like convention centers or museums, promoting tourism to Hillsborough, and beach and shoreline maintenance. It can also be used to support construction and maintenance of sports stadiums. …

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Bill Clinton rallies Democrats in St. Pete

Former President Bill Clinton urged hundreds of supporters Tuesday to vote and do it early.

"If people who are for Hillary, vote for Hillary, she'll win Florida and be our next president," Clinton said. 

Most in the crowd at the Thomas "Jet" Jackson Recreation Center in a predominantly black Wildwood neighborhood appeared to have already done that. When former governor Charlie Crist, who warmed up the crowd for Clinton, asked for a show of hands of early voters, most of the racially-mixed crowd raised their hands.

Clinton spoke for about 37 minutes, driving home the message that Republic nominee Donald Trump didn't have the interests of black Americans at heart and played to the nostalgia of white voters who didn't realize or mind that the America they missed hadn't treated minorities fairly.

Clinton said, he remembered power brokers telling black people how to vote in the pre-Civil Rights South.  

"As a 70-year-old Southerner, I know what will make America great again," Clinton said. Ensuring voting rights for all Americans ranks high on that last, he said. …

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MOSI makes clear that, Biden notwithstanding, it's politically neutral

Purple, not red or blue, is the color of the Museum of Science and Industry, its operators say.

[Times file]

Purple, not red or blue, is the color of the Museum of Science and Industry, its operators say.

The Museum of Science and Industry, whose building and land are controlled by a largely Republican Hillsborough County Commission, wants the public to know that hosting a campaign appearance Wednesday by Democratic Vice President Joe Biden is strictly business.

“MOSI is not red or blue – MOSI’s signature color is purple, a mix of red and blue – and our venue is available for voices on all sides of an issue,” MOSI President and CEO Molly Demeulenaere said in a news reelase.

A secondary message of the release is that the financially strapped museum remains open for business, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., even as Biden stumps for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The vice president is scheduled to take the stage at 11:15 a.m.

“However, like event attendees, MOSI guests will need to pass through a security screening,” MOSI notes.

The two groups will use different entrances and Biden fans have to RSVP.

But more on that political neutrality. …

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Lowkey and 'casual,'€™ but still: Rays president meets with top Tampa officials

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner met with Tampa Bay Rays officials last week.

Will Vragovic, Staff Photographer

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner met with Tampa Bay Rays officials last week.

TAMPA — The group of local officials and businessman who meet periodically with the Tampa Bay Rays were supposed to gather Friday to discuss the team’s potential move to Hillsborough County. But the meeting was cancelled.

At least, that’s what the Tampa Bay Times was told when it asked Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s office if it was still on.

It turns out, though, that the two elected officials who sit on that group, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, still met separately with Rays brass last week, the Times has learned.

Buckhorn and Hagan said they didn’t anticipate speaking with Rays officials last week but team owner Stuart Sternberg was in town and wanted to sit down with both. Hagan spoke with him Thursday while Sternberg and Rays President Brian Auld met with Buckhorn at City Hall on Friday morning.

So what was discussed at this impromptu rendezvous that just so happen to be around the time of another cancelled get together with the Rays?

Nothing important, Buckhorn said. …

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