Driscoll will face challenge for St. Petersburg City Council seat

Brett Vickers, a St. Petersburg real estate agent and philanthropist, has filed to run for…

Brett Vickers, a St. Petersburg real estate agent and philanthropist, has filed to run for the District 6 City Council seat against incumbent Gina Driscoll.

Vickers, 57, a first-time candidate, said he has no history in politics or government but extensive involvement in local non-profit organizations through a charitable foundation of his wife’s family. Lisa Vickers is the daughter of the late Roy Speer, founder of Home Shopping Network.

Brett Vickers, a St. Petersburg real estate agent and philanthropist, has filed to run for the District 6 City Council seat against incumbent Gina Driscoll.
Brett Vickers, a St. Petersburg real estate agent and philanthropist, has filed to run for the District 6 City Council seat against incumbent Gina Driscoll. [ Brett Vickers ]

Originally from Long Island, Vickers has been in Florida since 1994 and St. Petersburg since 2001. He’s a former NBA farm team owner and owner of a local franchise of the national Realty One Group. The couple live in Roser Park and have four grown children.

Vickers recently sued mayoral candidate Vince Nowicki over an investment by Vickers in a company Nowicki was starting. The suit was dismissed in March after a settlement whose terms prohibit Vickers from discussing it, he said. He said the litigation had nothing to do with his decision to run for the City Council.

“I’ve had a lot of people approach me in the past” about running for office, he said. “I never seriously considered it until a group of community leaders came to me and expressed that they weren’t getting proper support” for revitalization efforts in the South Side and Midtown.

“My feeling is St. Pete has flourished and the South Side and Midtown have remained stagnant. I’m pretty much a visionary, so I believe I have some good initiatives to bring to the table” for economic development and helping small businesses recover from the pandemic.

Among the charities Vickers has been involved in, he said, are the Kind Mouse food pantry, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Alpha House, the Speer YMCA Pre-School and Ryan’s Club.

Asked whether he might self-fund his campaign, Vickers said he plans to discuss it with his campaign team.

Driscoll, a sales and marketing executive, is seeking her second term on the council and raised $33,898 in her first two months as a candidate.

She’s announced endorsements by the AFL-CIO’s West Central Florida Labor Council, the city chapter of the International Association of Firefighters and Equality Florida Action.

Bradford seeks Pasco rematch against Fitzpatrick

A 2022 rematch is shaping up between Pasco County Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick and Gary Bradford, who narrowly lost to Fitzpatrick in a special election for the District 4 commissioner’s seat last year.

Both have filed early for the 2022 election for a full four-year term in the seat.

Fitzpatrick narrowly edged out Bradford in an upset in 2020, in part because only Republican candidates filed for the seat, creating a universal primary in which Democrats and others could vote. Florida law requires a universal primary when the primary will decide the election.

Pasco County Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick.
Pasco County Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick.

It’s too early to predict whether that will happen again in 2022, according to both candidates and other political insiders.

Most insiders had considered Bradford last year’s frontrunner. He had backing from prominent Republicans, including Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Sheriff Chris Nocco, and out-fundraised Fitzpatrick by 15-1.

Bradford brought in $155,323 and spent most of it, while Fitzpatrick raised $9,451, all but $450 of it her own money. Two other candidates raised less than $30,000 combined.

She won by 815 votes, or about 1.1 percentage points.

Bradford, 62, is a retired Tampa police officer and lobbyist for the politically influential Police Benevolent Association, and a familiar figure in Tampa Bay area and Tallahassee political circles. That helped him raise substantial campaign money in 2020 from sources outside the county, including Tampa.

Gary Bradford, candidate for Pasco County Commission District 4
Gary Bradford, candidate for Pasco County Commission District 4

Fitzpatrick is a tax preparer, marketing executive and head of a private school, one of a number of nonprofit organizations she has founded or worked with in Pasco County. Her community involvement, often cited as helping make her competitive politically, has focused on special needs children.

The district leans strongly Republican, but includes much of Fitzpatrick’s hometown, New Port Richey, an area less GOP-leaning than the rest of the county.

Fitzpatrick, 36, was a registered Democrat until January 2019, when she switched parties. She said she initially registered in high school at a time when she thought little about politics.

“I lived and I learned,” she said. She said she voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

The District 4 seat came open for the special election after former Commissioner Mike Wells announced his resignation to run for property appraiser in October 2019.

Bradford, Fitzpatrick and Pasco County Democratic Party Chair Kelly Smith all said they consider it likely that more Democrats and no-party voters voted for Fitzpatrick than Bradford in 2020.

Smith said she hopes a Democrat will run next year but isn’t aware of any potential candidate, and that the party won’t focus on recruiting one. “We’ll get a better return on our investment focusing on the governor’s race,” she said.

But if any non-Republican files in the race — even a write-in candidate whose name wouldn’t appear on the ballot and who wouldn’t have to pay a filing fee — the “write-in loophole” in election law would close the primary so only Republicans could vote. There have been instances when such candidates were recruited for the purpose of closing primaries.

Fitzpatrick said Bradford told her and others at a recent Republican Party event that he intended to make sure the primary was closed.

“That’s a bald-faced lie,” he responded. “That would be illegal, and I certainly wouldn’t jeopardize the pension I worked for. What I told her was something like, ‘We’ll see how we do in a closed primary.’ “