Mayoral contenders vie for Welch and Kriseman endorsements
ST. PETERSBURG-- Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and state Rep. Rick Kriseman are officially out of the mayoral race, but don't expect them to drop out of the election limelight.
The two men, like many prominent community leaders, are being courted by a rash of mayoral contenders hoping to score their endorsements.
Welch said he won't endorse until after the primary, but Kriseman said he could endorse someone as early as June.
"I don’t plan on endorsing anyone prior to the end of session," he said. "My focus up here (in Tallahassee) needs to be on my job up here and not on what's going on back in St. Pete in the mayor’s race."
Welch said he will likely donate cash to the campaigns of contenders Scott Wagman, Jamie Bennett, Bill Foster and Deveron Gibbons because they each donated cash to his past campaigns at some point.
"That's the protocol," Welch said.
Welch's father, former council member David Welch, is Gibbon's mentor, but Welch said he and Gibbons aren't as close.
"He is an associate," Welch said.
Welch is friendly, however, with Bennett, who worked with him on homeless issues across Pinellas County. So if Bennett makes it past the primary, he could be Welch's guy.
Kriseman, meanwhile, said he could endorse a Republican, but it seems more likely that he will support one of his Democratic buddies. He and Bennett used to go out for drinks after meetings when they both served on the City Council and they still keep in touch.
Wagman said he is also Kriseman's friend, but Kriseman said they only met once.
So who will probably get Kriseman's endorsement? Hmmm... we guess Bennett.
-Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer