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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg Mayor's Race Gets First Official Candidate



ST. PETERSBURG -- Although the mayor's race is more than 21 months away, Mayor Bill Foster already faces a challenger.

Council Chair Leslie Curran, right?


Ok, how about State Rep. Rick Kriseman?

Guess again.

Rick Baker?


(Drum roll)

Try retired builder Paul Congemi.

Congemi, 55, is a veteran of mayoral politics, having run in 2009. He was the first to announce in that race as well.

In May of that year he was banned from a KFC restaurant at 34th Street N after cursing out several employees. When police arrived, Congemi said "Don't touch me. I am running for mayor and once I get elected, you will be fired." Asked later at a campaign forum if this would be an abuse of power, Congemi said it instead would be "justice."

He didn't mince words. He said the police department was corrupt and that he'd fire Police Chief Chuck Harmon if elected. He said "homosexuality is an abomination, according to the Bible." He didn't take campaign contributions. He was in favor of casino gambling in Pinellas County because surplus revenue could be passed on to taxpayers. He wanted an agency to work on rent control.

Alas, he garnered a meager 0.33 percent of the vote in the primary.

In a letter to the city clerk announcing his campaign for the 2013 mayoral race, it's clear that Congemi expects a different result.

"This is Paul Congemi writing to you," his letter states.  "You see I will be running for mayor again. Only this time things are different. I have my own political party. I have 105,000 members in the state of Florida. I have established my own political party. I want to run for mayor again. See you soon."

-- Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer



[Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2012 3:24pm]


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