Baker kicks off campaign with barbeque and conversation
Rick Baker greeted dozens of supporters Saturday at Lake Maggiore Park, kicking off his quest for a return to the mayor's office by forgoing a stump speech in favor of casual small group chats with supporters at a picnic organized in part by his former deputy mayor Goliath Davis III.
“There was a rule I had as mayor--some things I won’t do the same---this one I’ll do the same. The whole community knew that if there was food, I was going to show up,” Baker said before blessing the steaming trays of chicken, ribs and sausage links served up by the Nite Riders Van Club.
Baker announced his candidacy this week to challenge incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman. The picnic, which also functioned as a low-grade fundraiser, was the first organized event of his political comeback.
Baker talked to reporters about his work cleaning up the once muck-filled Lake Maggiore, but avoided attacking his opponent’s environmental record. He didn’t mention Kriseman once.
Nor did his supporters. Al White, a retired police sergeant who helped organize the event, said he returned from out of state to help because he admired Baker’s integrity and his work diversifying the police department.
“He was alway more about the community than himself,” White said.
Leroy Lewis, who backed Kathleen Ford in her unsuccessful run against Baker in 2001, said he quickly grew to trust Baker and admired his work in Midtown.
“He doesn’t hold grudges,” Lewis said of the mayor who served from 2001 to 2010.
Much of the crowd at the lakeside park at Dr. Martin Luther King Street S and 40th Avenue S was black and the city’s black community--- roughly 20 percent of the electorate--- is crucial to Baker’s path to victory.
Lewis Stephens Jr., who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2015 and is an activist in youth issues, backs Baker, believing he will create youth programs to stem violence and juvenile delinquency.
Without Midtown’s vote, Stephens said, Baker has little chance of a third term.
“He’s got to take Midtown,” Stephens said. “And I’m going to help him take it.”