Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jamie Bennett: I won't quit St. Petersburg mayor's race because opponents aren't good enough

ST. PETERSBURG - More than a week after firing his campaign manager amid a flurry of allegations, City Council member Jamie Bennett released a statement today explaining why he is staying in the mayor's race.

In sum: The other candidates are just not good enough.

Bennett also announced the hiring of a new campaign manager, Derek Newton, a Miami political consultant.

"I’m delighted to have Derek’s experience and ability on my campaign,” Bennett said in a statement. “Now that we’re putting together a professional team, I’m excited to continue working for the citizens of this great city and making my case about why I’m the best choice to be our next Mayor.”

Meanwhile, Bennett's former campaign manager, Peter Schorsch, said his onetime boss could hire famed strategist James Carville and still finish fifth in the September primary.

"In his quest to be mayor, he lost all sense of what is right or wrong," said Schorsch. "He's lying. He is taking advantage of my past and because my past was so dishonorable...He is trying to lay blame for his own mistakes on my reputation."

Read Bennett's press release after the jump:

"Peter Schorsch, my former campaign manager, has admitted violating professional, ethical and perhaps even legal standards of conduct – acts that lead to his immediate dismissal from my campaign. Since his dismissal, Peter has undertaken a planned effort to discredit me by attempting to associate me with his improper actions.

"His allegations are completely false. To those who know me and have worked with me throughout my service to the city since the early 1980s, these assertions are neither credible nor believable. The record is clear. When I learned of Peter’s unsanctioned conduct, I dismissed him immediately – as I would anyone who abused a public trust in this way.

"As has been reported, Peter has a lengthy history of illegal and inappropriate political conduct. His fabrications are proof that he remains a deeply troubled young man.

"Many people cautioned me against associating with Peter but, as a father, I looked for the best in him, wanted him to have a second chance and hired him with my heart. That was my mistake. As the candidate, I am responsible for my campaign and by believing in Peter, my reputation has become his most recent victim.

"Even more than the damage he has done to my campaign, I deeply regret the appearance of impropriety Peter created. He undermined the best nature of community service and I have contacted the candidates he targeted to offer my sincere apologies.

"In the days since I learned of Peter’s outrageous conduct, I have reflected and consulted with family, friends and political supporters about what I should do. I care about our community far too much to be disheartened or discouraged by this personal and political setback. I simply will not allow the irresponsible actions of one individual to deny our community the vision and leadership we all deserve in our next Mayor.

"Today, I am continuing my campaign for Mayor with a renewed dedication to St. Petersburg’s bright future. As the most experienced Mayoral candidate and the only candidate who is currently responsible for leading this great city, it would be irresponsible to concede our future to untested or less informed aspirants."

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:53am]

    

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