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Local elections: Before the campaigns begin

in city hall/news

Campaign season has formally begun in Safety Harbor for the 2020 municipal election. Have you ever considered how the officials in our town get on the ballot?  Most of us are too busy to spend time learning how the process works, so the Safety Harbor Sun is delving into the procedural process to become a candidate in our city. 

Our next municipal elections will be on March 17, 2020, the same day as the national primaries. Safety Harbor typically schedules elections to coincide with presidential primaries and other state and county elections as this offers significant savings on printing and other fees. Safety Harbor will have two open seats; Mayor and Commissioner Seat Four, each of which is a three-year term. All Commissioners and the Mayor are elected in non-partisan, at-large elections. There are no term limits in Safety Harbor.  These are not full-time positions and commissioners typically have continued their careers while serving. Compensation for these positions is:   

  • Mayor:  $9,587.16/annually ($6,000/year + $3,587.16 per diem/year). 
  • Commissioners:  $8,387.16/annually ($4,800/year + $3,587.16 per diem/year

So, how does a resident get on the ballot for the March election?  A potential candidate must be a registered voter and a resident of the city for at least one year. The qualifying period for the upcoming election ran from noon on December 2 to noon on December 9. The qualifying period is when announced candidates have to finalize all the requirements to run for office in Florida. The requirements are mainly dictated by state law and are significant; the handbook runs to hundreds of pages.  

Before December 2, each candidate must purchase the Candidate Handbook for $40, appoint a Campaign Treasurer, designate a depository for a campaign account and submit an official Candidate Statement. This is just the beginning of a list of forms and required fees as mandated by the state of Florida.

Interested candidates meet with City Clerk and Safety Harbor Supervisor of Elections Karen Sammons to review all the requirements and begin the process. Some of the other steps include returning 100 petition cards from registered voters and filing eleven additional forms. There are fees to be paid from the campaign account established for this purpose. They are $160 for Mayor and $123 for Commissioner. Financial statements are required to identify sources of income and disallow someone who may want to profit from their position in government. Campaigns can be financed by the candidate or from declared donations.

Once a person meets all the qualifications for candidacy, they can begin campaigning. Signs may be posted 90 days prior to election (12/18/2019) and must be removed by March 24, 2020. Clearwater and Dunedin have very similar processes for qualification.

There are currently five declared candidates in Safety Harbor. These people have completed the initial steps for candidacy, opened campaign accounts, and submitted the necessary petitions. For Mayor, incumbent Joe Ayoub and Tanja Vidovic are qualified. For Commissioner Seat Four there also three declared candidates; incumbent Carlos Diaz, John Estok, and David Roth.

Residents must be registered by February 18 to vote in the March election.  So far, there are seven voting locations in the city. These election precincts are listed here.

Pinellas County currently has 685,996 Active Registered Voters. Safety Harbor has 13,553, consisting of 4248 Democrats, 5304 Republicans, 3860 with No Party Affiliation and 141 Other.

Statistics courtesy of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

Kate has lived in Safety Harbor since 2003. After careers in cooking and computing support, she earned a Master’s in Library & Information Science. She worked as a Library Media Specialist for 8 years in Pinellas County. Currently Kate is self-employed in Marketing and Sales Administration and has always promoted research and Information Literacy. She is an avid bicyclist and audiobook addict. Kate’s interests are cooking, environmental issues and intelligent urban planning.