ST. PETERSBURG — A week after Mayor Bill Foster scored an endorsement from Gov. Rick Scott, challenger Rick Kriseman won the support of another heavyweight: former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Florida's former Republican governor-turned-independent-U.S.-Senate-candidate-turned-Democratic-potential-gubernatorial-candidate endorsed Kriseman during a news conference Monday.
Crist called Kriseman a tireless advocate for the environment and education.
"My friend Rick is a passionate man," Crist said at the Wildwood Recreation Center in the Midtown neighborhood. "He cares about the people of St. Petersburg. This is important to me. This is my hometown. I know he will be a great mayor."
Kriseman, a Democrat, served in the Florida House when Crist was the Republican governor. He said he looks forward to working with Crist again if he seeks office.
"Together, we're going to bring St. Petersburg to ... a brighter future," Kriseman said.
Both men stood at a podium flanked by about 20 residents, including state Rep. Darryl Rouson, City Council member Leslie Curran, former police Chief Goliath Davis, Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson and recently retired assistant police Chief Cedric Gordon.
One of the biggest criticisms against Kriseman is that he didn't get much legislation passed during his six years in the Florida House.
When asked to describe Kriseman's biggest accomplishment in Tallahassee, Crist said he led a failed effort on a ballot initiative to protect the Gulf of Mexico from oil drilling.
"Unfortunately, the House got up there and voted it down," Crist said. "Rick was leading on it. If that's not leadership, I don't know what is."
The biggest endorsement will come from voters on Nov. 5.
At the same time as Kriseman's event, Foster held a news conference to announce that Walmart has started hiring workers for its new Midtown store, which is taking over the Sweetbay Supermarket space in Tangerine Plaza.
Foster described Crist's endorsement event as one career politician endorsing another career politician.
"If Mr. Kriseman would spend half the energy to come up with an original thought on jobs rather than collecting endorsements, we may actually have a debate," Foster said.
"The endorsement today is more about Charlie's run for governor than it is the mayor's race," Foster said, noting he won without Crist's endorsement four years ago.
Crist scoffed at the notion that the endorsement is about anything but Kriseman.
Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459.