Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Politics

Goliath Davis vows to help Rick Kriseman become St. Petersburg mayor

ST. PETERSBURG — Goliath Davis, one of the city's most influential African-Americans, pledged Monday to help Rick Kriseman unseat Mayor Bill Foster in the Nov. 5 election.

"I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that we don't have another four years of Bill Foster," said Davis, a former deputy mayor and police chief. "We've seen that movie. There's nothing that he has done to warrant a rewind of that sequel."

The announcement comes as Kriseman and Foster battle for votes in African-American neighborhoods, which Kriseman largely won in the Aug. 27 primary but saw low voter turnout.

Asked if he is endorsing Kriseman, Davis said: "Let the people decide what it is."

The declaration isn't a surprise.

"For obvious reasons, we did not seek an endorsement from Dr. Davis," Foster said Monday. "Endorsements can be a positive or negative for a campaign. We will let the voters decide which this is."

In May, Davis called challenger Kathleen Ford a "viable candidate" but stopped short of an endorsement. He said his mantra was "anybody but Foster." Ford finished third in the primary.

At that time, Davis said he didn't praise Ford to retaliate against Foster for firing him in 2011 after he didn't attend a funeral for a fallen police officer.

Throughout the primary season, Davis took notes from the back of the room at most mayoral forums.

On Monday, Davis said Kriseman held consistent views at forums when pressed on different topics. He likes his position on tightening the controversial police pursuit policy.

Last week, Police Chief Chuck Harmon announced he will retire in January. Foster and Kriseman have said a national search is needed to find a new chief, a position Davis said wasn't a factor in his support.

"I do not have a problem with a national search," Davis said.

"Rick Kriseman has performed in a way which demonstrates he is capable of being an effective mayor," Davis said. "He offers energetic leadership. He's not flip-flopping."

The two men recently met and talked about city issues, though neither would elaborate.

"This campaign is all about bringing people together and building a broad, bipartisan and diverse coalition of support," Kriseman said. "That's how I'll govern, and it's why I welcome the support of Dr. Davis."

In 2000, former Mayor Rick Baker hired Davis to help revive Midtown. Davis developed four key goals: build basic amenities like a library, a post office, a grocery store and a bank.

The city invested millions in public money to help bring a grocer to Tangerine Plaza in 2005. The store closed earlier this year.

Davis believes progress in Midtown slipped under Foster.

When pressed further Monday about a grudge, Davis said: "Five City Council members supported someone other than Foster. They, too, had an opportunity to serve with the mayor."

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

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