Holmes Tops Woods In Largo Election
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Curtis Holmes, a Largo businessman, notched a close victory over incumbent Rodney Woods for Seat 3 on the City Commission in Tuesday's voting.
Holmes got 3,162 votes to 2,986 for Woods, a 2.86 percentage point margin. There was a turnout of 13.7 percentage of registered voters, about the same as the turnout in 2006 that put Woods in office.
Mayor Pat Gerard was elected that same year, defeating incumbent Bob Jackson. The two were to be opponents again this year, but foul-ups by Jackson and two city employees put Jackson out of the race.
So a 13.7 percent turnout with just one race is significant and shows well in a city that is stricken with apathy and has traditionally low turnouts.
About 4,600 absentee ballots represented the bulk (75 percent) of the voting. Holmes led in that count and his margin grew as the precinct tallies came in. Woods never got the lead.
A referendum question that proposed shortening the qualification period for candidates from 60 to 15 days was approved, 3,197 to 2,877. The change means little because candidates would still have 60 days to gather petition card signatures.
One element that distinguished the campaign, after the Jackson imbroglio, was Woods's absolute refusal to debate Holmes, a departure from what has been tradition in Largo politics.
In all fairness, those who gave Woods a strong endorsement, have to be considered as not in full possession of all the facts.
It is hard to believe that responsible people like Gay Gentry, a former commissioner, would endorse someone who demonstrably has a problem with the truth and other failings.
For example, Woods reported that he had "no assets" and "no liabilities," yet he owns property (an asset) and has a large mortgage (a liability).
In another example, Woods has said he owns a landscape business. While that may be true, the business is non-functional and Woods works for another company as a bug sprayer and reportedly is serving an apprenticeship for state certification.
Gentry called Woods a "team player" in proclaiming her support. Of course, the idea of a "team player" on a municipal legislative body is inimical to the idea of democracy. Might be okay on a larger body - like state or federal - where party plays a role.
But democracy itself rests on disagreement and the give and take of opposing ideas and formal compromises to create policy and legislation. That someone would not know how that works, particularly a former teacher, is appalling.
Endorsements came for Woods from the fire fighters union and the Communication Workers of America, the union that represents many city employees.
With the endorsement from the fire union comes a $500 contribution. Woods was endorsed last Thursday, October 29. No contributions can be accepted after that date and a campaign finance report was due on the next day, Friday. No report of the contribution, if there was one, appears on Woods's October 30 report.
The endorsements came five days before the end of the campaign and were never published in any meaningful way. In fact, the fire fighters union's support seemed to be perfunctory with almost no demonstrated support on election day.
Usually, the unions have made their endorsements many weeks before the election. It seems that both unions were hedging their bets.
Holmes was interviewed by the fire fighters union representatives but the CWA made its endorsement of his opponent without ever talking to Holmes. Many city employees, upon learning this, were reportedly outraged.
Pinellas County's only daily newspaper also endorsed Woods, and in so doing, got egg all over its collective face. Evidently, the writer of the endorsement picked up Woods's answers on an interview sheet verbatim in which he took credit for completion of the Largo Library and the city's Strategic Plan.
Both were done before he took his place on the commission in 2006.
The Big Paper's blind and blatant backing of Woods led to a gaffe, ironic in its content, of describing Woods as the owner of a business (who in actuality is working as a laborer) and Holmes, the owner of an actually prosperous business, as an "insurance agent."
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