Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: A tale of two competent mayors, and one conflicted electorate

Rick Baker has filed to run against Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Rick Baker has filed to run against Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Well, okay, score the first point for the former mayor.

And all Rick Baker had to do was show up at City Hall.

Within an hour of the news breaking that Baker had, indeed, filed to run again for the mayor's office in St. Petersburg, he was being depicted as out-of-touch and divisive by Rick Kriseman's campaign manager. And, in case that description wasn't pointed enough, we were reminded that Baker worked to defeat the nation's first African-American president.

Really? We're going there on Day 1?

If Baker's mere presence on the ballot is enough to get the Kriseman team hyperventilating by lunch time, then this is going to be one long, joyless campaign for the incumbent.

Not that Kriseman doesn't have reason to be concerned. Baker might be the only person in St. Petersburg who could walk into this race and immediately have the polls on his side.

And that plays into what has been Kriseman's greatest weakness as mayor. He's too thin-skinned, and his staff is too eager to throw elbows at the first sign of trouble. And Monday's reaction didn't do much to dispel that perception.

So, here's a thought:

Why not walk into the race confidently?

You can bet that's what Baker will do this morning when he formally announces his candidacy in a City Hall stage show. He will remind voters he was the one who first saw this city's potential. He will bring up many of the accomplishments from his two successful terms. He will have familiar politicians standing by his side to recall the seamless nature of his administration.

And if Kriseman is smart, he will applaud from afar.

Acknowledge that Baker was a competent mayor. Acknowledge that he is a good man. Acknowledge that there might be people in the city whose politics align more closely to Baker's more conservative views.

And then Kriseman should make the case for his own accomplishments and vision.

That's the beauty of this race.

It doesn't need to be negative on either side. You can always find critics, but I would wager that most voters have favorable opinions of both the former and current mayor.

That doesn't mean they are flawless. And it doesn't mean that their more questionable decisions and quirks shouldn't be fair game.

Kriseman has issues deflecting blame. Baker had a penchant for operating in secrecy. Kriseman will have to answer for the sewer problems. Baker will have to answer for his judgment in once endorsing Herman Cain for president. Kriseman hasn't gotten along as well as he should with the City Council. Baker didn't get along at all with the Tampa Bay Rays.

In the end, the fact that Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican is going to matter to a certain number of voters. And that's fine. Party labels offer a shorthand look into a politician's philosophies.

But for a great many voters in St. Petersburg, I suspect party affiliation won't mean as much as it does on the national or state level. Voters know Baker; they know Kriseman. They have seen them up close, and they have critiqued them at the ballot box.

There will be times when each candidate tries to paint a picture of his opponent as some liberal or conservative caricature. Sort of what the Kriseman campaign attempted to do Monday.

That kind of stuff is inevitable but not necessary in this case. Both have been worthy mayors in the past, and one will be again.

It's just up to you to decide.

Romano: A tale of two competent mayors, and one conflicted electorate 05/09/17 [Last modified: Monday, May 8, 2017 9:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. Pinellas votes 7-0 to help sue Legislature over new law favoring charter schools


    LARGO — They said they had no choice but to do it. They said they would rather reach a compromise.

    Gov. Rick Scott, right, kicks off the 2017 legislative session on March 7 in Tallahassee. Scott later signed a massive education bill that is being challenged by several school districts. On Tuesday, Pinellas became one of them. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Deputies find 24 dogs, 2 birds, 2 cats, 1 child in Hernando home

    Public Safety

    SPRING HILL —A woman was arrested Monday on charges of animal cruelty after deputies said they found injured animals at her Spring Hill home.

    Jennie Card, 44, was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty after deputies said they found her injured animals at her Spring Hill residence.[Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors


    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  5. Joe Maddon on being back at Trop, Cash, a new stadium


    More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:

    Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.