Times editorial editor on St Pete mayoral race
Tim Nickens weighs in with this column. Any guesses whom the editorial board will recommend to succeed Rick Baker?
Here is a confession. I have no clue who is going to be St. Petersburg's next mayor. I can't even predict with any confidence who will be the top two finishers in the Sept. 1 primary and advance to the November general election. And while the Times' editorial board is busy interviewing candidates, we will not be making our recommendation until later this month. So don't look for any hidden clues this morning — just don't mail in that absentee ballot yet.
Despite months of campaigning and a growing number of yard signs, I don't get the sense many St. Petersburg voters have focused on the mayor's race yet and reached any firm conclusions. That may be because there are 10 candidates. There is a top tier of maybe five, but there is no clear front-runner.
...This does not strike me as a change election. St. Petersburg has had only two strong mayors. The first, David Fischer, started as a weak mayor under the city manager form of government and was an ideal transitional figure with an even temperament and low-key style. Baker is the second and offers the only experience the city has with a truly strong mayor with an ambitious agenda who is comfortable wielding power and holding the spotlight.
The two candidates who would steer most sharply away from Baker are former City Council member Kathleen Ford, who lost the general election to Baker eight years ago, and former Pinellas Democratic Party chairman Ed Helm, who lost to Baker four years ago. Most of the rest would build on Baker's record in some fashion even as they developed their own management style and priorities.