Rick Kriseman wins straw poll in St. Petersburg mayoral race
St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman vowed to sway black voters once they learned more about him.
He might be right.
The former City Council member and state lawmaker won an overwhelming majority of votes in a straw poll Wednesday night after the mayoral debate at Bethel Community Baptist Church on 54 Avenue S.
Of the 116 people who participated, Kriseman won 64.7 percent.
Mayor Bill Foster followed with 16.4 percent. Kathleen Ford only garnered 10.3 percent. Two other candidates and undecided voters tallied about 9 percent.
In the past three months, polls among the African-American community showed Ford pulling away with votes. Her campaign signs dominate neighborhoods south of Central Avenue. The surge came after Goliath Davis, a leader of the black community, declared Ford a viable candidate to lead the city.
Kriseman’s camp had warned countless times that yard signs will not guarantee votes in the primary election on Aug. 27.
Gypsy Gallardo, publisher of The Power Broker and Grapevine magazines, helped sponsor Wednesday’s debate. She called the poll results “shocking.” She expected Foster’s numbers to be much higher.
“I never expected Kriseman’s numbers to be over the top,” she said Thursday morning.
After the debate ended, Gallardo said organizers sought a supporter from each campaign to help oversee the ballot counting. They couldn’t find any Ford supporters, Gallardo said.
She pointed to an answer that Ford gave when a resident asked what the candidates had already done to help the struggling Midtown area. Ford said she helped make potato salad at an event in Campbell Park in the 1990s.
“It just reveals a lack of cultural competencey,” Gallardo said.