ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker and his family walked through the parking lot clad in campaign T-shirts, readying to cast their votes at the Church of the Beatitudes on Tuesday morning.
Nearly six months ago. the former mayor announced his campaign in front of City Hall, where his opponent Rick Kriseman holds office. Now the hard-fought campaign is coming to a close.
Baker, 61, gave a thumbs up to reporters as headed to the church to cast his ballot along with wife Joyce, daughter Julann and son Jacob.
"It’s election day," he said, flashing a smile.
After emerging through the church doors sporting his "I voted" sticker, Baker told reporters he regretted nothing about his campaign, but also took the time with the media to take jabs at his opponent.
"It’s been an exciting few months. We feel good about it," he said. "We’re feeling really good about the momentum we have going into the final day of the campaign."
He said he was proud he focused on "the truth" and didn’t allow his campaign to get tangled in national politics. He considered Kriseman’s approach unhealthy for America and for the city of St. Petersburg.
"I think it’s a mistake to try to import the poison of the national politics that has divided our country into St. Petersburg," he said. "That’s not how we move our city forward."
Baker reiterated points he has had throughout his whole campaign: the failing sewer system he puts on the shoulders of Kriseman, getting Midtown and the schools "back on track," overhauling the plan to build a new pier.
When asked about the Rays, the mayor — who served two terms starting in 2001 — said he wants to keep them on his side of the bay.
"But I have to tell you, it’s going to be hard," he said, explaining the intricacies of the former contract the baseball team had with the city. He blasted Kriseman’s decisions.
Baker said he started his day at 5:30 a.m. waving to sanitation workers. He’d already been to polling places to shake hands and meet voters. The rest of his day would look much of the same.
It was just after 10 a.m. Polls don’t close until 7 p.m.