How the St. Petersburg mayor's race was won
ST. PETERSBURG — Poll after poll showed Bill Foster losing to Kathleen Ford.
He decided to heed the advice of many: He went negative in the waning days of the St. Petersburg mayor's race.
Foster TV commercials and mailers began to portray Ford as a "divider" and Foster as a "uniter."
The tactic won him the election, Foster said.
"We didn't poll well until we started running that message," Foster said Wednesday, a day after he was elected mayor with 53 percent of the vote. "We knew that we had to focus on consensus building and our ability to bring people together and that's what we did."
Voting records support his theory. Early mail ballots had Foster slightly ahead, with only 50.5 percent of the vote. But he emerged as the clear victor once Election Day ballots were tabulated and 11 precincts that had been leaning toward Ford fell his way.
His election is the latest win for the city's majority black neighborhoods, which have sided with the victor in every recent mayoral campaign. While Ford, 52, made some early inroads, her efforts fell short.
Foster, 46, started his first day as the mayor-elect at 6 a.m. with a handful of interviews. He stopped by City Hall and thanked city workers for their service. He fielded congratulatory e-mails and telephone calls. Mid-afternoon, he said he planned to take a nap.
It was an anticlimatic finish to a heated campaign that pitted Ford's promise for reform against Foster's vow to continue steady progress.