Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Except for fringe candidates, more of the same at St. Pete mayoral debate

ST. PETERSBURG — With 10 mayoral forums under their belts, the top candidates have honed the talking points so well that residents hear the same message at every debate.

Not much new emerged in Thursday night's televised event at City Hall. The leading candidates — Mayor Bill Foster, Kathleen Ford and Rick Kriseman — stuck to their talking points.

But fringe candidates Paul Congemi and Anthony Cates, who have not been invited to the major debates, offered something different. Congemi, 56, raised a Bible and read quotes from Leviticus. Anthony Cates, 23, left the debate after half an hour to attend a radio interview.

Talks centered around the future of the Pier and professional baseball, Midtown redevelopment and crime at the event hosted by the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

For many, these debates mean nothing; they've already voted by absentee ballot in the Aug. 27 primary. As of Thursday, voters had returned 21,005 — or 33 percent — of the 63,000 absentee ballots sent by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office. In the 2009 primary, residents cast 36,733 votes overall.

Here are some highlights from the debate Thursday:

First mention of the Pier: Within about 10 minutes, Ford said she would have allowed residents to vote on whether they wanted to refurbish the inverted pyramid.

On police: Kriseman, 51, and Ford, 56, criticized the police department for its lack of community policing. Both prefer a method where an officer is assigned to every neighborhood, a strategy police Chief Chuck Harmon scrapped in 2006.

Foster, 50, said, "Community policing is alive and well."

About education: Even though the mayor has little control over the city's schools, this continues to dominate talk on the campaign trail.

Ford is passionate about boosting early childhood learning to prepare kids for kindergarten. Foster talked about the difficulty working with three superintendents since 2010. Kriseman didn't differ from his stump speeches, discussing the importance of service learning.

Best one-liner: "Don't do it," Kriseman jokingly said when asked to give advice to aspiring politicians in attendance.

Most repeated line: "I represent God, morality and the common man. I don't represent greed, big business, dollars and cents," Congemi said several times.

Best take on an old debate (how to improve Rays' attendance): "No. 1, stop the greed," Congemi said. "Five bucks for a hot dog, five bucks for a soda. How does the common man take his family to the game? Get rid of the greed. You'll fill the seats."

Political jabs: "I don't come around every four years or come down from Tallahassee with failed policies," Foster said about Ford and Kriseman.

Kriseman replied: "I'm running for mayor because I don't want to keep the status quo or because I want to turn City Hall upside down."

Contact Mark Puente at or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @markpuente.

Except for fringe candidates, more of the same at St. Pete mayoral debate 08/15/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 11:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. A Time magazine with Trump on the cover hangs in his golf clubs. It's fake


    The framed copy of Time magazine was hung up in at least four of President Trump's golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

    A framed copy of Time magazine, dated March 1, 2009, that hangs in at least four of President Donald Trump's golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland, is fake. There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time. The real March 2, 2009, issue of Time featured actor Kate Winslet on the cover. But the issue makes no mention of Trump. [Left, Time; right, Angel Valentin for the Washington Post]
  2. Editorial: The human cost of slashing Medicaid


    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had no choice Tuesday but to postpone voting this week on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that is just as devastating as the version passed by the House. The Congressional Budget Office's estimate that Senate bill would eliminate health care coverage for 22 million …

    Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press
  3. Vince Young takes shot at Bucs' Ryan Fitzpatrick


    Former NFL quarterback Vince Young, out of the league since 2011 and complaining about not getting more opportunities to prolong his career, took a shot at new Bucs backup Ryan Fitzpatrick in a story posted at …

    Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Bucs to be Jameis Winston's backup this fall, has played for six other NFL teams in his 12 seasons in the league.
  4. Editorial: Scott's poor choice for CFO


    Gov. Rick Scott didn't reach too deeply into Florida's talent pool in appointing his friend Jimmy Patronis to fill a vacancy as the state's new chief financial officer. This is an exceptionally weak choice for a Cabinet post that requires a sophisticated understanding of banking and other financial services, and it …