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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jamie Bennett talks smack



ST. PETERSBURG -- City Council member Jamie Bennett has never been a big supporter of Bill Foster or Kathleen Ford. And now that the three are vying to be St. Petersburg's next mayor, he hasn't been shy about letting his feelings be known.

Bennett's campaign sent out a letter last month that bolstered his record and tried to discredit Ford and Foster, both former council members. He brushed over lesser known candidates Sharon Russ, a minister, and Paul Congemi, a homeless activist.

"With Rick Baker term-limited from seeking re-election, there are at least five serious candidates, myself included, running to be the next Mayor of St. Petersburg," Bennett wrote. "There are two former members of the City Council who threaten to turn back the clocks on the progress we have made in this city over the last eight years. There are also two newcomers to elected office, both of whom may be well-meaning, but lack the experience to lead our city in these complex, turbulent times."

The "newcomers" are Scott Wagman, a real estate investor, and Deveron Gibbons, a civic leader and corporate executive.

Bennett said Foster and Ford were part of an previous group of elected officials who sought change that isn't necessary or desired.

"You definitely have a dismantling mentality," he said. "They want to return to a time that they long for and not necessarily that the rest of the community longs for."

UPDATE (10:10 a.m.) Ford and Foster dismissed Bennett's comments.

"He's just campaigning. People say a lot of things when they are campaigning," Foster said. "One commitment I have made is I will not run on the deficiencies of my opponents. I will just refer to the Foster Fomula. It's not regressive."

Ford addressed the current council's leadership, which Bennett has been a member of since Ford left office in 2001.

"It's an outrageous amount of property taxes that have been approved by the current City Council which resulted in the passage of Amendment 1 by frustrated taxpayers because local government failed them miserably," she said. "I seek to have an accountable, affordable, open and transparent government."

Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:46am]


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