UPDATED: Ken Welch will seek re-election to County Commission instead of running for St. Petersburg mayor
ST. PETERSBURG -- Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, among the most prominent Democrats considered mayoral material in St. Petersburg, will seek re-election in 2012. Welch told the Bay Buzz the decision means he will not run against Mayor Bill Foster, a Republican, in the 2013 mayor's race.
Welch and Foster met Monday morning for breakfast at Bob Evans, where Welch said he told Foster of the news.
"I think the mayor’s doing a good job, and I told him that. I think there are a lot of areas that we can work more collaboratively," Welch said, noting work on improving the county's EMS system, homeless initiatives and transportation issues such as a major light rail effort.
Welch said he was not endorsing Foster in the race, though.
Welch said he faces potential primary challenge from Democrat Maria Scruggs-Weston, who ran previously for mayor and County Commission (she spelled out her intentions in past meeting with him). Scruggs-Weston also has put her name up as a potential vice chairman of the county party.
UPDATE: Scruggs-Weston said she's still looking at running for Welch's seat but hasn't made a final decision. She also said she has decided instead to run for party chairwoman at Thursday night's county Democratic Party meeting against Mark Hanisee. (Chairman Ramsay McLauchlan is not seeking another two-year term.)
But she wasn't reluctant about lobbing a shot at Welch.
"What Ken has successfully done is successfully leverage perks for himself," she said. "Such as his position with St. Pete College."
Welch also discounted the effects of the Republican Party's victories in November against the Democratic Party, leaving him the only Democrat on the County Commission. He said the demographics of his south Pinellas commission district compare favorably with St. Petersburg in elections, and downplayed recent failures and organizing weaknesses in the local Democratic Party.
"Whether it’s County Commission or some other office down the road, I plan to run on my performance and my record in office," Welch said.
Welch has begun taking other steps, including planning to leave his job at an assistant vice president at St. Petersburg College by mid-2011 after five years. He plans to put more work into the accounting business owned by his father, David, a former City Council member in St. Petersburg.