CLEARWATER - Paul Gibson defeated Norma Carlough in the race for City Council Seat 5 by a margin of only 141 votes. Gibson received 5,692 of the 11,243 votes cast in the low voter turnout election, while Carlough captured 5,551.
Gibson campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility and accountability to the taxpayer. He received the endorsements of Clearwater's Police and Fire unions, the Pinellas Realtor Organization and this newspaper. The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, Communications Workers of America and the St Petersburg Times favored Carlough.
Contacted the morning after his win, Gibson attributed his victory to the positions he took on the issues facing Clearwater's taxpayers. Noting that the thin margin of victory would have been erased had only 71 of his voters changed their minds, Gibson said that every campaign decision was critical to his success.
Gibson's election reversed the trend of the ever-increasing cost of running a Clearwater City Council election campaign. Gibson spent only $8,973, versus the $12,298 spent by the Carlough campaign. Gibson's low-cost effort was consistent with his outlook on city spending and taxes.
The cost of mounting an election effort has deterred many otherwise qualified candidates from running in this and past elections. But Gibson offered words of encouragement for prospective candidates; "If you're upset about what's going on in government, you too can run and be elected," he said. Gibson's effort was grass-roots; "I did not have a power base, a political base, and I won," he added.
The election behind him, Gibson is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work. His first Council meeting will be April 4th, coincidentally the date that Clearwater's Budget Task Force will be presenting their final report. Gibson has attended most of their meetings, and is already familiar with their cost-cutting recommendations. "We are a ship sailing in the wrong direction and we need to make a mid-course correction," Gibson said.