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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Pete Mayor celebrates birthday with former rival



ST. PETERSBURG- Mayor Rick Baker and City Council member Wengay Newton have apparently put their troubled past behind them.

The two men greeted each other warmly during the grand opening ceremony of the CVS on Central Avenue and U.S. 19 this morning. Then, Newton offered to sing Baker a birthday song after the convenience store staff surprised the mayor, who turned 52 today, with cake. With a wide grin on his face, Newton busted out with an original birthday jam back from his days as a waiter at a Mexican restaurant in the 80's. The song ends with, "I must say your really nifty."

Those are words no one expected Newton to ever say to Baker, birthday or not, back in November, when the two men stood on opposing teams in one of the more heated political feuds of the St. Petersburg election season.

Then, Newton was running for City Council on the premise that he was not another Baker crony. Meanwhile, Baker was hitting up area churches and civic meetings campaigning for Newton's opponent, the more conservative Gershom Faulkner.

Even after he won, Newton complained that he had been running against two men, not just Faulkner. He also chastised Baker for not doing enough to combat crime in St. Petersburg's most troubled neighborhoods.

-- Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:29am]


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