Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Adam Smith: Don't count Kriseman out in St. Pete mayor's race

Rick Kriseman is less well-known than Foster or Ford, but has time and resources.

Rick Kriseman is less well-known than Foster or Ford, but has time and resources.

Mayor Bill Foster is vulnerable, and as early, mail-in voting gets under way, keep an eye on the underdog, Rick Kriseman.

The St. Petersburg mayor, of course, must be pleased to be leading the field in our new mayoral poll. But with seven in 10 city voters preferring to replace him in November, Foster looks like anything but a formidable incumbent.

Absentee ballots should start reaching more than 60,000 voters any day now, and more than half the votes are likely to be cast before the actual primary day of Aug. 27. The real question is whether Kathleen Ford or Rick Kriseman will emerge to face Foster in the runoff, this poll suggests.

Conventional wisdom had it that this was likely to be another Foster vs. Ford contest, that Kriseman's quiet campaign and lack of name recognition would never overcome the high profile of Ford, a two-time mayoral candidate and leading critic of the Lens proposal for the Pier.

Certainly, Ford seemed to feel that way, waging a play-it-safe campaign of repeatedly skipping joint appearances and debates with the other major candidates.

Goliath Davis, the former police chief and deputy mayor clearly still bitter about Mayor Foster firing him in 2011, apparently envisioned a Foster-Ford race too. He's an Anybody-But-Foster guy, and has all but endorsed Ford, a longtime critic who once publicly called Davis a liar and suggested he might be tipping off drug dealers.

Kriseman, though, is emerging as a serious contender and could prove to be a much more serious threat to Foster than Ford.

Ford, after all, has shown herself to be a stronger candidate in a crowded primary than in a two-person general election.

In 2001, she made it into the mayoral runoff only to lose to Rick Baker by more than 13 percentage points. Four years ago, she narrowly trailed Foster in the primary and wound up losing by more than 5 percentage points in the general election.

"It would be a mistake to underestimate the solid base of support she has to build on, especially with the Pier issue on the ballot," said lawyer Peter Wallace, a former state House speaker and a longtime friend of Ford's.

True. But former City Council member Ford still is recalled by many voters as a divisive and hot-headed force at City Hall. She could face the same ceiling of support that cost her the mayoral races of 2001 and 2009.

Kriseman argues that he's the stronger general election candidate and the logical choice for those wanting new leadership.

"We've seen Kathleen versus Bill before and we know how that comes out. Nothing's changed with either of them," Kriseman said. "If you're not happy with the current leadership and you want change, I'm the one."

Kriseman will never win a charisma award, but passion and excitement have never won elections in St. Pete. He is trying to introduce himself merely as a strong and safe alternative to Foster — a positive and pragmatic leader who worked well with former Mayor Rick Baker.

The former City Council member and state representative hasn't been on a citywide ballot since 2003, so he is less known than Ford or Foster but has time and resources to overcome that.

He has raised more money to date — about $110,000 — than anyone else, is already airing television ads, and is about to send mailers to voters. As of June 30, he had more than $80,000 in his campaign account, compared with $72,000 for Foster and less than $20,000 for Ford.

An Obama campaign veteran is helping Kriseman target voters, and though he and Ford are both Democrats, the state Democratic Party is helping Kriseman in the officially nonpartisan race. The party has spent more than $20,000 so far on Kriseman campaign staffers.

No incumbent has ever lost a mayoral election in St. Petersburg, and Foster is not exactly reviled. A plurality of voters in our poll rate his job performance as average.

It's way too early to count Foster out, just as it's too early to safely assume we know who will be taking him on in the general election.

Just ask Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. More than a month before Tampa's mayoral runoff in 2011, a Times poll found Buckhorn trailing in third place.

Adam Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Adam Smith: Don't count Kriseman out in St. Pete mayor's race 07/24/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 10:37am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. "They're the players that we have" is really an alarm bell

    Blogs

    The other day, Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith was asked about the lack of production and pressure from the defensive line, especially off the edge.

    Then it happened.

  2. Police seek public's help as they investigate third death in Seminole Heights

    Crime

    TAMPA — Police are seeking the public's help in their investigation of three suspicious deaths in southeast Seminole Heights during the past two weeks.

    Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan addresses reporters about the latest suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL | Times]
  3. Listen: Soldier's widow shares her call with Trump

    Military

    Natasha De Alencar had just returned home on April 12 after making T-shirts and pillowcases in her husband's memory when the Army casualty assistance officer told her there was someone on the phone for her. It was President Donald Trump.

    Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar was killed during a firefight with Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan on April 8, 2017. His widow, Natasha De Alencar has shared the condolence call she had with President Donald Trump on April 12. [Image from video via Washington Post]
  4. Superiority complex: USF continues to battle schedule, expectations

    College

    TAMPA — His voice, a perpetually scratchy bellow, betrays conviction. USF coach Charlie Strong has been asked if he believes he has the 16th-best team in America. Hesitation doesn't precede his response. Resolution fuels it.

    Does USF deserve its No. 16 national ranking? Coach Charlie Strong says there's no doubt. He expects that his Bulls can match up with any Division I-A program. (Octavio Jones, Times)
  5. Guest column: Girl Scouts designed to help girls excel on their own terms

    Columns

    This column was written to coincide with the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11. It comes on the heels of an announcement from the Boy Scouts of America that the organization will begin accepting girls.

    Girl Scouts like these, earning a patch at the Medical Center of Trinity earlier this year, are exposed to the best leadership experience in the world, says Jessica Muroff, who runs the organization locally. [Times files]