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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Local Democrats point fingers over Kathleen Ford's loss



ST. PETERSBURG -- Who's to blame for Kathleen Ford's failed mayoral bid?

The St. Petersburg Democratic Club sent out an e-mail Tuesday that named plenty of potential culprits:


Message matters.  Campaign themes count.  And a candidate’s off-the-cuff comments can be fatal.

Those are the some of the lessons that the St Petersburg Mayoral Election imparted.  The unremitting press focus on Kathleen Ford’s “HNIC” comment probably had a great deal to do with Foster carrying the vast majority of presumably Democratic South St Petersburg and Midtown precincts, getting up to 70-79% of the vote in many of them.

Although Ford reportedly had a 39%-34% lead with 16 days to go … with more than 25% of voters still undecided … the race turned, in Foster’s view, when he responded to a question asked at the St Petersburg Times –BayNews9 Candidate Forum by parroting a phrase that George W Bush used repeatedly in his 2000 Presidential campaign:  “I’m a Uniter, not a Divider.”  Foster continued by saying:  “I’ve had a history of building consensus and building bridges and working with people.” 

Hard-core Democrats may have scoffed at hearing those words.  But others, including Independents and Republicans, didn’t.  That message, which many voters heard as … “I’m a Uniter, she’s a Divider”… became the centerpiece of Foster’s closing burst of mailers and TV commercials.

Corroborating Foster’s message was the support he received from former Democratic City Council members Jay Lasita and Rene Flowers, as well as former Democratic Mayoral candidate Scott Wagman.

Although Pinellas Democratic Chair Ramsay McLauchlan successfully persuaded Democratic office-holders Ken Welch, Charlie Justice, Rick Kriseman and Bill Heller to publically stay neutral, their failure to endorse Ford clearly sent a negative signal to on-the-fence voters in St Petersburg, suppressing potential support that she might have received.

Did Democratic disunity doom Ford?  Well, it certainly didn’t help her!

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:19pm]


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