Justin Bean isn’t exactly certain who he’ll be competing against in the St. Petersburg City Council District 6 race, but he says he can’t wait to debate the issues facing St. Petersburg with whomever he eventually faces.
“There won’t be eight of us, so you can’t hide if you don’t know the issues,” the 30-year-old businessman said shortly after 8 p.m Tuesday outside the Galley, the downtown watering hole where friends of Bean gathered to watch the election returns.
Bean was the only candidate in the crowded field to receive more than 20 percent of the vote, netting 1,442 votes. Gina Driscoll came in second place with 1,215 votes, just four more than Robert Blackmon, who received 1,211 votes.
The Pinellas County canvassing board will convene Friday morning to count provisional ballots and determine if a recount between Driscoll and Blackmon is required.
Blackmon looked a bit dazed at around 8:30 p.m. as the rain pounded on top of the grass hut covering Fish Tales Seafood House.
“What can you do?” he said as it appeared he had fallen just a handful of votes short of qualifying for the runoff in November.
When asked if he might have done something different in his campaign, the 28-year-old property investor replied, “Nobody would be asking me that question if I finished in fifth place. Something we did got us this far. Could we have gone further? Who knows? I’m happy to be where we’re at. I left it all on the mat.”
Driscoll was unavailable for comment Tuesday night. The 46-year-old president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and sales manager for Hampton Inn & Suites St. Petersburg Downtown watched the returns privately with friends and family, and did not return a call for comment.
Although a non-partisan race, party politics could play a part depending on who moves on to the run-off. Bean and Blackmon are both Republicans (the only two in the eight-person field), Driscoll is a Democrat.
Bean said he looks forward to engaging in a thoughtful debate with his opponent, something that he says was hard to do with such a crowded field.
“There wasn’t a lot of time to talk during debates,” he recounts. “There was a lot of noise, so we really didn’t get to dive into the issues, so I’m excitied to really get into the issues.”
Bean was the choice of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, a recommendation that Bean said helped separate him from the pack.
“I think that made a big difference. I think it gives you some credibility, because people are looking for that, they don’t know a lot about the candidates.”
Driscoll won the imprimatur of outgoing District 6 Councilman Karl Nurse, while Blackmon won the endorsement of former Mayor Bill Foster. All three led in the field in fundraising, with Blackmon tops (though he did write himself checks totaling more than $15,000).
Unlike Tuesday’s primary election, the entire city now gets to vote in the District 6 race.