Election offices throughout the state of Florida are gearing up for the Aug. 23 primaries, when voters will decide the Democratic and Republican candidates for federal, state and local offices to compete in the Nov. 8 general election.

The ballot in Pinellas County also will include two universal primaries, as well as nonpartisan school board, county and circuit judge elections.

The deadline to register to vote or change your political affiliation is Monday, July 25. Visit Votepinellas.gov for more information. 

The Supervisor of Elections Office began mailing ballots to military and overseas voters July 9. Ballots for domestic voters will be mailed out starting July 21. The deadline to request a mail ballot is 5 p.m. Aug. 13. Email mailballot@votepinellas.gov or call 727-464-VOTE (8683).

Early voting is scheduled from Aug. 13-21, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., at the Election Service Center, Starkey Lakes Corporate Center, 3001 Starkey Road, Largo, 727-464-VOTE (8683); Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater; and County Building, 501 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg, (Fifth Street North entrance).

All ballots must be returned to a Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. Election Day.

The polls open Election Day, Aug. 23, at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

 

Closed primary

Florida is a closed primary state, meaning only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary and only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary.  All registered voters regardless of political affiliation can vote in nonpartisan elections and universal primaries.

 

Republican primary

Registered Republicans can choose between Kevin Hayslett, Moneer Kheireddine, Anna Paulina Luna, Amanda Makki and Christine Y. Quinn as their candidate to run in the Nov. 8 race for Representative in Congress, District 13. The position is currently held by Charlie Crist, who is running for governor.

In the race for the Republican candidate for Representative in Congress, District 14, choices are James Judge, Samar "Sam" Nashagh and Jerry Torres. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Kathy Castor in the general election.

The Commissioner of Agriculture race also is on the Republican ballot with a choice between James W. Shaw and Wilton Simpson. The winner will take on the top-vote-getter in the Democratic primary, Naomi Esther Blemur, J.R. Gaillot or Ryan Morales. The incumbent Democrat Nikki Fried is running for governor.

In the race for State Representative, District 58, Kimberly "Kim" Berfield, Jason Holloway and Jim Vricos are vying for the seat currently held by Republican Lawrence McClure, whose term ends on Nov. 8. The winner of the primary will face the Democratic candidate, Bernard "Bernie" Fensterwald or Joseph Saportas, on Nov. 8.

Berny Jacques, Dipak D. Nadkarni and Jennifer Wilson are competing to run for State Representative, District 59 in the general election against the Democratic candidate Dawn Douglas. Democratic incumbent Andrew Learner term ends on Nov. 8.

 

Local race

Republicans also will decide who will run against incumbent Democrat Pat Gerard to represent District 2 on the Pinellas County Commission. Gerard, a Democrat from Largo, has served the residents in the at-large District 2 since 2014.

The choice is between Republicans Debbie Buschman and Brian Scott. Buschman, of Palm Harbor, is the Lunch Pals coordinator at Pinellas County Schools, and Scott, of Largo, is president of Escot Bus Lines.

 

Universal primaries

All registered voters, regardless of political affiliation, can cast a ballot in two universal primaries. According to the Supervisor of Elections, “the Board of County Commissioners, District 4 and the State Representative, District 57 contests are Universal Primary contests in which all qualified candidates are registered with the same political party. 

“All voters in county commission District 4 and State Representative, District 57 are eligible to vote in this contest, regardless of party affiliation. The candidate who receives the most votes will be the winner, and the contest will not appear on the general election ballot.”

Voters can choose between Adam Anderson and Austin Brownfield in the race for State Representative, District 57.  The incumbent Republican Mike Beltran’s term ends on Nov. 8.

In the second universal primary, Republican Dave Eggers, of Dunedin, who has represented Pinellas County residents in single-member District 4 since 2014, will face fellow Republican Heather Aynne Vernillo, owner operator of Vernillo Health & Wellness in Palm Harbor.

 

Democratic primary

Democrats can pick between Ricardo De La Fuente, Val Demings, Brian Rush and William Sanchez to run against incumbent Republican Marco Rubio in the Nov. 8 general election.

In the race for Representative in Congress, District 14, the choice is between Christopher Bradley and incumbent Kathy Castor.

Democrats also will pick their preferred candidate to run against Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking a second term in office. The choices are Charlie Crist, Candace Daniel, Nicole "Nikki" Fried and Robert L. Willis.

In the race for Attorney General, Democrats will find three names on the ballot to compete against the Republican incumbent Ashley Moody: Aramis Ayala, Jim Lewis and Daniel Uhlfelder.

Three Democrats are vying for a chance to take over the Commissioner of Agriculture position: Naomi Esther Blemur, J.R. Gaillot and Ryan Morales. The incumbent Democrat Nikki Fried is running for governor.

Democrats will find two names on the ballot in the race for State Representative, District 58. Bernard "Bernie" Fensterwald and Joseph Saportas are competing to run against the winner of the Republican primary. The seat is currently held by Republican Lawrence McClure, whose term ends on Nov. 8.

Democrats also will decide who will go on to compete for State Representative, District 62 in November. The choices are Wengay "Newt" Newton, Jesse Philippe and Michele K. Rayner. The incumbent Democrat Susan Valdes term ends on Nov. 8, 2022.

 

School Board

Incumbent School Board member Lisa Cane of Palm Harbor will have two challengers in her race to keep her at-large District 2 seat. Cane was first elected to the school board in 2019 and is currently the vice-chairperson.

Her opponents are Brad S. DeCorte of Palm Harbor, who has been teaching English at Tarpon Springs Middle School for 22 years, and Bronson Oudshoff of Clearwater, clinical research operations manager for an ophthalmology practice.

The incumbent for the at-large District 3 seat, Nicole Carr, is not seeking re-election. Three candidates have qualified to run for her seat, including Keesha Benson of St. Petersburg, an educator and community advocate; Dawn Peters, of St. Petersburg, president of a volunteer group serving veterans and a certified personal trainer and nutritionist; and Carl "Z" Zimmermann of Palm Harbor, a journalism teacher with 30 years of experience in Pinellas County.

The incumbent for the single-member District 6 seat, Bill Dudley, also chose not to run for re-election. Brian M. Martin of St. Petersburg, a small business owner with experience in the water and wastewater treatment industry; Stephanie Meyer of St. Petersburg, a local middle school social studies teacher and college professor; and Kimberly Works of Pinellas Park, a Medicare case manager at United Healthcare have qualified to run for his seat.

In the race for the single-member District 7 seat, incumbent Caprice Edmond, of St. Petersburg, who has held the office since 2020, will be challenged by Maria Di Fiore Solanki of St. Petersburg, a business owner that has worked with special needs and gifted children for nearly 20 years.

Only one nonpartisan special district race will appear on the August ballot. Tom McKone and Michael S. Peasley are vying for seat 4 on the East Lake Tarpon Special Fire Control District. Candidates in other races qualified without opposition.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.