ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster will be facing Rick Kriseman in the Nov. 5 general election, according to unofficial election results.
More surprising, perhaps, is how close a race it was. Foster led by fewer than 1,000 votes.
Foster captured almost 41 percent of votes, compared to Kriseman's 39 percent. Kathleen Ford trailed with 19 percent.
Voters also overwhelmingly rejected the proposed pier replacement project called the Lens, with 63 percent of people voting to end the city's contract with the architect who was going to build it.
Foster was expected to make the runoff, so the five-person contest really was a race for second place.
Obstacles included Kriseman reintroducing himself to residents after serving in the Florida House for six years, and Ford overcoming her reputation as a divisive figure while on City Council.
Both Kriseman, 51, and Ford, 56, painted themselves as leaders who could move the city forward when it came to basic services like policing and improving neighborhoods. Both called Foster, 50, a failed leader.
He expected the criticism.
Foster frequently said his challengers would exploit his record since neither had done anything to help residents in the last four years. Foster, Kriseman and Ford are all lawyers and former council members.
The other two mayoral candidates, Anthony Cates and Paul Congemi, each garnered less than 1 percent of early votes.
The sprint to the Nov. 5 general election should be different than the mostly lackluster primary race.
Both men know they have to differentiate themselves with voters to lead City Hall. Each agreed that the recent dozen mayoral forums didn't provide a good opportunity to promote their visions.
The race could also come down to money.
Kriseman's Tallahassee connections paid off in the primary. He raised more campaign money than Foster and Ford. But raising even more will be crucial to carry the momentum until November.
As of Friday, Foster had about $36,000 available; Kriseman only had about $9,000.
Foster, who was meeting with supporters at the Midtown Sundries Sports Bar in downtown St. Petersburg, said he was taking the early results as a sign that voters are generally happy with the direction the city is headed.
Of his likely opponent, Foster said, "I'm going to run on my record. I expect him to run on his."
He said it didn't matter to him whether he faced Ford or Kriseman in the general election. He said his campaign did some polling that mirrored the early results. However, he said he thought with the large amount of absentee ballots that Ford might have come closer to Kriseman than she did.
As far as voters' rejection of the Lens, Foster said he will focus on moving forward.
The city is seeking permits to have the inverted pyramid Pier demolished and he will recommend a new process to pick a new pier to council soon.
He said he is pleased with the work of the 828 Alliance, which he formed to come up with a new selection strategy. That group will meet tomorrow to talk about moving forward.
Kriseman, who was meeting with his supporters Tuesday at the Palladium Theater, said he will court Ford supporters to help put him over the top in the general election.
"We need their energy and ideas," he said. "I'm going to work hard to earn their vote."
When asked about voters' rejection of the Lens and where the city should go from here, Kriseman said the mayor is still in charge of that process right now.
When pressed on whether he would call on Foster not to move forward with tearing down the pier until after the general election, Kriseman said that he'd like to sit down with Foster and discuss that.
In other results:
In the District 4 council race show Darden Rice leading the pack with 46 percent of the votes, followed by Carolyn Fries with almost 26 percent, Dr. David McKalip with 24 percent, and Richard Eldridge with almost 5 percent. The top two finishers will face off Nov. 5.
In the District 6 race, incumbent Karl Nurse had an overwhelming lead over his two challengers, capturing 69 percent of the vote. Sharon Russ had 19 percent, followed by Trevor Mallory with 12 percent.
In the District 8 race, candidate Amy Foster had a commanding led with 56 percent of the vote, followed by Steve Galvin with 18 percent, Alex Duensing with 16 percent and Robert Davis with 10 percent. The top two will face off on Nov. 5.
Check back here for updates.