Friday, April 20, 2018
Politics

Foster and Kriseman locked in tight race for St. Petersburg mayor

ST. PETERSBURG — People overwhelmingly believe the city is headed in the right direction, but they aren't sure Mayor Bill Foster is the one who should lead it, according to a new poll by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9.

The poll found the incumbent mayor and his challenger Rick Kriseman locked in a tight race that could find either man at the helm after the Nov. 5 general election. Kriseman was ahead by the slimmest of margins, with 40 percent of the vote compared to Foster's 39, well within the poll's margin of error of 4.8 percentage points.

Sixteen percent of voters remain undecided.

Foster said he was slightly disappointed with the results, especially given that 72 percent of residents like where the city is going.

"If we're going in the right direction, don't fire the guy who brought you through the recession," he said. "This just puts fire in the bellies of all my supporters."

On the campaign trail, Foster frequently mentions cranes in the sky, construction projects under way worth $500 million and how he steered through the tough times.

Kriseman, 51, said he thinks the poll shows voters recognize the rhetoric.

"Residents see through Bill's message that he's trying to take credit for everything," Kriseman said.

Foster isn't deterred by the tight race and vowed to refine his message to sway undecided voters and even win over Kriseman supporters. His campaign did a poll recently that mirrored the Times/Bay News 9 results, he added.

"We knew it would be close," said Foster, 50. "We know there's a lot of undecided voters. We're going to build on that momentum."

The poll, conducted Sept. 14-16 by Braun Research of New Jersey, surveyed 410 registered voters who said they will definitely or probably vote on Nov. 5.

In a city with a picturesque waterfront, a growing downtown and an exploding arts district, most residents were happy with St. Petersburg's progress. However, some attributed the latest developments to an improving economy rather than city leadership.

Real estate investor Shawn Seecharran, 51, said Foster's policies didn't increase property values or trigger building projects. By that same token, he said, Kriseman also hasn't offered any grand ideas to move the city forward.

"I don't like anything about either of them," said Seecharran. "(Foster) looks more honest than the other guy. That's all we have to vote on these days."

Musician Billy Marcus, 66, said he supports Foster because he's shown leadership in the stadium stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Bill Foster makes sense, " said Marcus, who lives in the Lealman area. "I don't know much about the other guy."

Dorothy Bell, 75, backed Foster in 2009, but not this year.

The retired university technician criticized the way Foster handled the Pier saga and the closing of the Sweetbay supermarket in Midtown.

Foster's policies have not done enough for the city's poorest neighborhoods, said Bell, who lives in Pinellas Point.

"That place is like a morgue," Bell said of Tangerine Plaza. "He could have done better. Kriseman sees that."

Eileen Conte, 70, agreed.

"Mayor Foster has done a good job. He's a nice man," said Conte, who lives in Allendale Terrace. "We need different ideas and enthusiasm. It's time for a change."

Even though the race is nonpartisan, many residents were swayed by party politics.

"I like the policies of conservative Republicans," said Peter Goodrich, a 61-year-old landscaper. "I don't like the policies of Democrats."

His only knock on Foster, a Republican, is that the city tried to build the $50 million Lens without voter approval. But Goodrich lauded Foster's handling of the years-old stadium saga.

"A contract used to mean something in the old days," said Goodrich, who lives in the Pasadena area. "How come there isn't any corporate support? Where are they?"

Since Foster took office in 2010, voters' opinions of the city have improved, according to past Times polls. In 2010, 57 percent of residents said the city was headed in the right track. In 2012, that number was 63 percent.

In the coming weeks, voters should expect an onslaught of television and radios ads and mailboxes filled with glossy fliers as both Kriseman and Foster work to win over those undecided voters.

"I'm not focusing on polls," Kriseman said. "We're still trying to send a message about jobs, education and strengthening neighborhoods."

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @ markpuente.

Comments
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18