St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on re-election fight: 'I welcome any challenger'
ST. PETERSBURG — While attending an event Tuesday to promote city's complete streets intiative in front of Perkins Elementary School, Mayor Rick Kriseman addressed his main rival in this year's mayoral election: former mayor Rick Baker.
Baker filed the paperwork to enter the race on Monday and then Tuesday morning in front of City Hall made his public announcement, and also took some shots at his rival.
Kriseman said this election will be about looking forward, not backwards.
"I welcome any challenger," he said. "I think it's important for people to look at where we're going and where we want to go. I think this is a campaign about the future and about being a progressive city, which I think we are. It's not about going back in time or the past. I look forward to talking about what we've been able to accomplish and what we want to do going forward."
He said he did not hear Baker's speech because he was in a City Council workshop. He stressed his theme of looking forward, not backwards, which may be a reference to some of Baker's old controversies: the slashing of homeless tents by police officers in 2007, and Baker's refusal to participate in the annual St. Pete Pride Parade during his years as mayor.
Kriseman, by comparison, has courted the city's growing and politically-active LGBT community.
"I look forward to having a vigorous debate with him and the other challengers ...," Kriseman said. "I want us to be a city — and we set a vision for the city which we did not have before I became mayor — which was to be city of opportunity where the sun does shine on everyone.
"We want to be innovative. We want to be competitive and creative. We want to honor our past while we pursue our future. And to me a lot of times a lot of times, I stop at that first part, because that's what it's really all about, becoming a city of opportunity."
Baker served two terms from 2001-10 and is now running for a third. It is the first time in the strong-mayor era of the city that a former mayor has challenged a sitting mayor.
Kriseman, who is wrapping up his first term, said "certainly I'd like to have my two terms in order to continue working on the issues ..."