Rick vs. Rick: St. Petersburg’s Mayoral Election

Rick Kriseman speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of the St. Petersburg Police Headquarters. (Unmodified photo by CityofStPete on flickr used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/RaejCi)

With only a month left before the August 29 primary in the St. Petersburg, Florida, mayoral race, the competition has been heating up. There are currently seven candidates running, but the frontrunners in the race are clear. Former Mayor Rick Baker and incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman are leading the pack.

The other candidates include Ernisa Barnwell, Anthony Cates III, Jesse Nevel and Paul Congemi.

Congemi drew national attention to the race after a racist rant during a forum about youth recreation opportunities with other mayoral candidates. In response to Nevel’s comments about his commitment to reparations to the African American community to help victims of police brutality, Congemi told Nevel “Your reparations, your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama.”

He continued on to say “My advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport. Go back to Africa. Go back to Africa. Go back!”

With the exception of Congemi’s outburst, most of the coverage regarding the race has been devoted to Baker and Kriseman.

Baker has a background in law and served two consecutive terms as the mayor of St. Petersburg, a tenure that lasted from 2001 to 2010. In May, he kicked off the campaign for his third term by criticizing the incumbent mayor over multiple issues, including St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis and concerns that Kriseman spent too much money on public relations.

During Baker’s kickoff announcement, he discussed his plans to help the city’s black community, which included efforts to improve local education.

He also addressed the LGBT community, a group that he had previously had a rocky relationship with. During his tenure as mayor, he never attended the St. Pete Pride parade nor did he sign a proclamation to honor the event. Additionally, he refused to fly the pride flag over City Hall.

In his kickoff, he stated “I believe the LGBT community is a vital, important part of our community.”

Similar to Baker, Kriseman also got his start working as a lawyer. He has served in the Florida House of Representatives, in addition to representing District 1 on the St. Petersburg City Council during part of Baker’s term as mayor.

In 2014, Kriseman was sworn in as the mayor of St. Petersburg. Throughout his term, he has become known as a supporter of the city’s LGBT community and has navigated turbulent negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays, St. Petersburg’s Major League Baseball team.

The position of mayor is officially nonpartisan, however much of the conversation surrounding the election has been devoted to the political parties of the candidates. Baker is a prominent member of the Republican Party, while Kriseman is a known Democrat, who drew attention to himself by jokingly banning Donald Trump from the city of St. Petersburg in 2015 via a tweet.

Current polls show Baker having a lead over Kriseman, but it is unlikely that either candidate will receive the 50 percent of votes necessary to achieve a victory in the upcoming primary. If neither candidate is able to surpass the threshold, the general election will take place on November 7th, 2017.

Comments are closed.