LARGO - The endorsement by the police union of the "Stanton ticket" in the March 7 election was the buzz among political aficionados in Largo over the past week.
The entry of Pat Gerard for mayor, Gigi Arntzen challenging incumbent Commissioner Jean Halvorsen, and Rodney Woods, vying for Gerard's open commission seat against veteran Ernie Bach, has been discerned as the city manager's insurance policy should they be elected.
If these three were to win, which most of the experts consider unlikely, Stanton would have a solid six commissioners more or less in his corner, counting Gay Gentry, Harriet Crozier and Andy Guyette as already there.
Should Jackson and Halvorsen retain their seats and Bach capture the open seat, which seems almost a certainty, those three, together with Commissioner Mary Black, the thinking goes, would put City Manager Stanton's position on thin ice.
So the election is crucial in terms of who will hold power in Largo.
With the endorsement last week of the police union, there was more connecting of the dots. The Gerard-Arntzen-Woods ticket was already endorsed by the fire fighters union, whose ex-president was appointed by Stanton as fire chief last year.
If nothing else, these endorsements caught many political observers by surprise. Gerard, a spend-spend-spend liberal, might have qualified for an endorsement.
But Arntzen, although involved in Largo politics for years, is a neophyte in public office, and Woods, many feel, is totally unqualified with absolutely no experience that would make him suitable for the commission. In fact, nothing is known about Woods's background. He is brand new on the Largo scene.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Jackson, perhaps the most popular political figure in Largo, and Jean Halvorsen, a longtime and popular commissioner, were snubbed for endorsements.
Many watching the scene were left with their mouths agape with the endorsement of Woods over Bach, who served previously on the commission and has been super active in community affairs.
Surprisingly, Gerard got the police nod despite her violation of election laws in last year's election and she is the target of a current investigation by the Florida Ethics Commission for alleged conflict of interest.
Matters of nepotism, conflict of interest and cronyism don't seem to bother Largo lawmakers, although these things probably make voters cringe.
A sitting commissioner, Harriet Crozier, has voted on an issue involving her employer, a funeral parlor in what seems to be clearly a conflict of interest.
Gerard voted several months ago to make Largo public property available to her employer in an apparent clear-cut violation of the law that says no public official shall vote on a matter that would benefit his or her employer.
Jackson, on the other hand, is clean as a whistle in 30 years of elected office in Largo, and no scandal has ever tainted Halvorsen in her more than two decades on the commission.
The county's only daily newspaper dredged up an ancient story to blacken the reputation of Bach on the same day that it endorsed the "Stanton ticket."
A thin story with virtually no weight to it, buried obscurely, deep in the story was the sentence that read "Bach had not been charged with any crime" in connection with the matter.
Many on the scene saw that as another example of that paper targeting a figure it does not favor.
"Heck, no one cares what they say," one veteran said. "Everybody in Largo who wants to know what is going on reads the Gazette."
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