Election Day is approaching for voters in New Port Richey and Port Richey.

Polls open Tuesday, April 13, and eligible residents will be tasked with filling seats on both city councils.

Three of five seats on the New Port Richey City Council are scheduled for election, though voters will only weigh in on two. Incumbent council member Peter Altman is running unopposed and will retain a seat.

In the other New Port Richey races, incumbent Matt Murphy and interim incumbent Mike Peters face challenges from two candidates: Kate Connolly and Rachel Giuliani-Hagenbaugh.

Three candidates are running for two seats in Port Richey: incumbents Tom Kinsella and Todd Maklary and challenger Seth Kapp.

Early voting is not available in either city, though New Port Richey announced its absentee voting schedule for residents who will not be in town to vote on Election Day. These absentee ballots may still be turned in at the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 5919 Main St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 9 and 12. Absentee voters must bring proof of residency.

Election Day voting for both cities will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

All candidates from both cities were invited to participate in a March 18 online forum hosted by the Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce. It was moderated by Suncoast News staff writer Eric Horchy.

All four New Port Richey candidates participated via Zoom and were given time to respond to a variety of questions related to their candidacy and issues facing the city. The full forum is viewable on the Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

Both available seats are for three-year terms. Council member Altman’s unopposed victory was for one year, as it finishes out the term of former council member Jeff Starkey. Starkey vacated his seat when he moved outside of city limits and Peters was appointed on an interim basis in November.

The forum opened with each candidate making opening statements and explaining their motivation to serve on council. Here are brief portions of those statements from each candidate.

Matt Murphy: “I want our city to be the best it can be. I live here, I grew up here, there’s nothing I want more than to see the city thrive. … Some of my priorities for the city — the citizens need to be number one. That means we need to make sure our tax dollars are being used wisely and generating a return on investment for everyone, not just downtown or certain areas. Our city’s history and culture is so important and we’ve got to make sure we preserve that.”

Mike Peters: “We’ve got a great thing going with our downtown core and economic development. We’ve got to keep that going. ... One of the big challenges is taking that momentum we have downtown and how do we spread that outside downtown. How do we get that into our various neighborhoods so they can benefit from that? … We can’t forget about the river. We’ve got to make sure we protect it, utilize it to its fullest and yet maintain the quality of the river we have.”

Kate Connolly: “I think it’s incredible what the council and our city leaders have done over the past few years to make that (progress) happen, but there’s still a lot of work to do and there are more voices needed at that table to get that done. I personally want to address the sustainable growth of all neighborhoods, better collaboration with our small businesses and the protection of our unique resources. … I also want to fight to ramp up some sustainable initiatives and cherish our natural resources, our common areas, green spaces, parks and waterways even better.”

Rachel Giuliani-Hagenbaugh: “My top motivation for all my work in the community is being an advocate — an advocate for walkability and safety in our streets. I want to decriminalize cannabis as a safe and natural, therapeutic medicine, and see a major expansion on our urban agricultural movement to nourish our community through mind, body and spirit. … I want to (remove) a lot of the restrictions to help bring in smaller businesses that need to be welcomed. The city needs to be more inviting, more friendly and truly more informative to businesses and residents.”

New Port Richey candidates addressed a number of other topics, such as the future of the downtown, the U.S. Highway 19 corridor and city neighborhoods, as well as the presence of red-light cameras on city roadways.

Port Richey’s candidate forum was limited to a statement from incumbent candidate Todd Maklary. The two other candidates did not participate. Maklary introduced himself, provided personal background information and addressed a few issues facing the city. Here is a portion of his 5-minute statement.

“I’m here today asking for our citizens’ votes because I want to continue that momentum to really rebuild Port Richey politics and Port Richey city government and keep restoring that faith. And now I want to move beyond that, as well. I want Port Richey to grow and really make it the jewel of Pasco County that I said it was 18 months ago. … Helping our businesses grow, helping clean up our waters. I know dredging has been a big thing over the past 20 years, I think, in Port Richey politics and I really think we’ve been addressing it the wrong way. Instead of dredging, which always has negative connotations, let’s work with our state government, our federal government, to really restore our waterways and bring them up, bring back the seagrasses.”

Both Port Richey City Council seats up for election are for three-year terms.