ST. PETERSBURG — Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster pressed for votes across the city Saturday, less than 72 hours before voters will select one of them as St. Petersburg's next mayor.
Foster spent the morning talking to voters in a neighborhood in the north end of the city before meeting volunteers canvassing Midtown neighborhoods.
Ford, meanwhile, unleashed volunteers into city neighborhoods and sent others home with a list of campaign phone calls to make. She planned to spend the afternoon making the rounds at youth football fields.
No opportunity was considered too small in a race most believe will be close.
When an African-American man asked Foster who he should vote for Saturday morning, Foster quickly huddled with the potential voter.
"Let's talk," Foster started, before nudging for a moment of privacy away from a reporter.
Earlier, Foster said, "We know that it's close. We're ready to just keep fighting until 7 p.m. on Tuesday," when the polls close.
The latest St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll puts Ford with a small lead over Foster, 39 percent to 34 percent. The poll has a 4 percentage point margin of error.
Neither campaign had major rallies or campaign events scheduled ahead of Tuesday's vote. Instead, both Ford and Foster planned to reach voters in small bunches.
Foster spent his morning with a group protesting the possible closing of the Euclid Station Post Office at 34th Avenue N and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
He then met with a group of about 50 supporters — which included his daughter Christine and wife Wendy — who volunteered to walk neighborhoods.
"We've walked just about every street in the fourth-largest city in the state of Florida," Foster told the group of volunteers, who gathered at the campaign's Midtown headquarters on 34th Street S. "We're at the end of a very long, grueling race, but because of you we're in a position to do very well Tuesday."
Ford, her husband Harvey and son Drew attended a picnic and volunteer meeting Saturday afternoon at Lake Maggiore Park.
Supporters, including former mayoral candidate Ed Helm and local NAACP president Ray Tampa, encouraged Ford volunteers to continue working right through the close of the polls.
"We know who we want to win," Tampa said. "We have to talk to others."
Ford thanked the nearly 35 supporters who gathered. "We're ready for a change at City Hall," she said to applause.
The final hours ahead of Tuesday's vote included a flurry of activity from both campaigns, with Ford launching her first television ad and Foster offering a mail piece that attempts to reinforce old questions about Ford's demeanor.
Ford's ad, called "Imagine," features Ford standing at a lectern in front of a computer-generated image of the American flag, repeating what has become a common theme of her campaign.
"Now is not the time to waste city funds on a new stadium," Ford says in the 30-second spot. "Now is the time to work together to address our city's real needs."
Foster, who holds a significant fundraising advantage, has been airing advertisements on television since before the Sept. 1 primary. Campaign officials said Foster ads would continue through Election Day.
Foster, meanwhile, launched a new mailer featuring his recommendation from the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. The ad pulls out selected quotes from the recommendation that contrast the two candidates.
"Bill Foster embraces the progress and offers an optimistic vision for the future," Foster quotes the recommendation as saying. "Kathleen Ford sees flaws, fights old battles and charts a different direction — backward."