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Kathleen Ford to run for St. Petersburg mayor

ST. PETERSBURG — Ten days after losing a lawsuit to save the Pier, Kathleen Ford will now try to use the inverted pyramid as part of her campaign for mayor.

With the Pier as a backdrop Monday, the former council member and lawyer said residents are angry about not being given a vote to save the Pier from the wrecking ball.

City Hall needs a leader who will represent all residents, she said.

"I think it's time for the sun to shine in City Hall," Ford, 55, said at a news conference at downtown's Demens Landing Park. "I'm running for mayor because I believe in responsive and responsible government."

She joins former lawmaker and former City Council member Rick Kriseman in a bid to unseat Mayor Bill Foster in the Aug. 27 primary.

This will be Ford's third bid for the city's top job.

She lost to Foster in 2009. The two had been locked in a close race until Foster pulled away in the end, capturing 53 percent of the vote.

In 2001, Ford lost more mightily to Rick Baker, garnering 43 percent of the vote.

Asked what would make her a winning candidate this year, Ford said: "I think folks have had an opportunity to evaluate the current government and see there is something lacking."

Ford said she'll work to improve police responsiveness, require faster fire inspections for businesses and eliminate red tape that impedes residents from receiving better services from City Hall.

Foster, 50, didn't return a call for comment.

Kriseman, also 50, said he isn't deterred: "Regardless who enters this race, my campaign will always be about one thing: Restoring leadership to City Hall and providing voters with a vision for the future that moves us forward."

With the campaign under way, Kriseman already has collected $51,000 in donations. Foster has collected $25,000. Ford said she isn't worried. She plans to run a grass roots campaign to gain support.

"The residents of St. Petersburg already know me," she said.

Ford might win support from residents who don't want the Pier demolished.

She sued the city in August after the City Council rejected an attempt by the group voteonthepier.com to get a Pier question on the ballot. The group had amassed more than 20,000 signatures in a months-long petition drive.

A Pinellas-Pasco judge ruled April 5 that the petition did not provide the basis to compel a charter amendment referendum. He also ruled that demolition of the Pier does not require a vote.

"They are not happy with the decision," Ford said.

The question of a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays could also factor into the campaign.

The team no longer wants to play at Tropicana Field, but is bound by a user agreement to play there until 2027.

Kriseman said he supports a proposal by council member Charlie Gerdes to let the Rays examine stadium sites in Hillsborough County if the team pays a fee. Foster said the Rays are committed by contract to the Trop and has refused to let them look across the bay.

The mayor's position is similar to the one held by Ford in 2009.

She said Monday she would not support Gerdes' proposal because it would weaken the city's legal position if the team broke the agreement.

Plus, she said, taxpayers have too much invested in the team and Tropicana Field to let them leave.

"I think we have to be careful," Ford said. "We still have a lot of debt that isn't paid for."

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @markpuente on Twitter.

Kathleen Ford to run for St. Petersburg mayor 04/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:13am]
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