Fla. Swing County Gets Bombarded With Political Ads

Clearwater, Fla., is in the swing county of Pinellas. That county went to George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. Now it's up for grabs. Steve Inskeep talks to Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos about voters' concerns there.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, as the big names give their speeches over the next couple of weeks, at the Republican and Democratic conventions, we're checking in with mayors in swing counties across the country. And our next guest is George Cretekos, mayor of Clearwater, Florida, which is just across the bay from Tampa. In Clearwater, as in many American cities, the election for mayor is officially nonpartisan - you do not serve as a member of a party - although Mayor Cretekos is a registered Republican.

Clearwater is in Pinellas County, which went to President Bush in 2004, then to President Obama in 2008. It's up for grabs again this year.

What's Clearwater like?

MAYOR GEORGE CRETEKOS: Clearwater is a beachfront community on the Gulf of Mexico. We have some of the best beaches in the entire state of Florida; powdery, white sand, warm gulf water temperatures.

INSKEEP: How's the economy been in Clearwater the last few years?

CRETEKOS: Actually, we're doing much better. We're basically a tourism economy. We have some new hotels on the beach that are the first hotels to have been built in Pinellas County as resorts for the last couple of years. We've invested over $35 million of city money in a beach walk project that has revitalized all of Clearwater Beach.

INSKEEP: Well, that's really interesting particularly given that, while the economy is recovering it's doing so very slowly. Why do you think that Clearwater is doing so well?

CRETEKOS: I think part of it has been that people always want to go on vacation, and they try to save their money to do that. And we're just happy that they decided to come to Clearwater and Pinellas's beaches.

INSKEEP: Now, you're in a political interesting county because it went for George W. Bush, President Bush in 2004, and then voted for President Obama in 2008.

CRETEKOS: You know, when I was speaking with the Illinois and Oregon delegations, welcoming them to our city for the RNC Convention, I reminded them that Pinellas County, this area of Florida, elected the first Republican congressman since Reconstruction, in the South. So we're a strong Republican area, basically for local politics. The senatorial and the presidential have waivered a little bit.

In fact, I saw in an article in the paper the other day, that Hillsborough and Pinellas County - Hillsborough is Tampa and Pinellas is Clearwater and St. Petersburg really hold the key to the election for the entire State of Florida.

INSKEEP: So how do you think each candidate - President Obama, Governor Romney - is playing in your county right now?

CRETEKOS: I think it's very close, just like the polls are showing. And we are getting bombarded with radio, with television ads. In fact, I'm almost wondering what's going to happen after November when we're going to go back to seeing, you know, ads for toothpaste, and detergent and automobiles.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Have you seen an ad that made you think, Wow, that's going to have a really strong effect around here - positive or negative?

CRETEKOS: Not really. I've got to tell you, I tune myself off of these political ads. You need a positive message, and unfortunately both sides have gone in the other direction, almost uniformly, in all types of different races. And I just tune them out.

INSKEEP: Well, Mayor Cretekos, thanks very much. Enjoyed talking with you.

CRETEKOS: Our pleasure, thank you.

INSKEEP: He is the mayor of Clearwater, Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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