Sunday, February 18, 2018
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott endorses St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster

ST. PETERSBURG — Florida's top Republican is endorsing Bill Foster's re-election bid.

"You look at what's happened with unemployment. It's come down," Scott said. "Look at all the development that's happening in St. Pete."

While the endorsement of the sitting governor will draw headlines, it's unclear how much it will really help Foster, who is locked in a tight race against challenger Rick Kriseman.

Scott suffers from low popularity ratings across the state, lost Pinellas to Democrat Alex Sink in 2010 and faces the possibility of a 2014 re-election campaign against St. Petersburg's Charlie Crist, who is now a Democrat.

Foster, meanwhile, already likely enjoyed support from the city's Republican establishment and tea party conservatives most likely to back Scott.

The Pinellas County GOP chairman said Scott's support will help push Foster to victory on Nov. 5.

"We have a governor who is busy making Florida a better place," Michael Guju said Monday. "It will do nothing but help the mayor. Both are busy making Florida and St. Pete a better place to live, work and play."

Both Kriseman and Foster have touted past endorsements in press releases and on campaign websites. Neither Scott nor the state GOP issued a statement for his support of Foster.

Instead, the endorsement came in response to a reporter's question at a city event Saturday at Lake Vista Park. Asked whether he backs Foster's bid for a second term, Scott said: "Absolutely. Mayor Foster has done a great job."

Scott and Foster thanked volunteers at the city's annual CareFest event, but neither talked politics with the crowd.

Foster repeatedly has blasted Kriseman for making the race partisan. The state Democratic Party has given Kriseman more than $30,000, which helps pay his campaign manager's salary.

While it pales in comparison to Kriseman's help from his state party, the state GOP has aided Foster in recent weeks.

The party's regional field director is helping Foster's team canvass neighborhoods on weekends. The county GOP is also involved, but Guju declined to reveal details.

"We are doing quite a bit to assist the mayor," Guju said. "He is the future of St. Pete."

On Monday, Kriseman called Scott's endorsement "appropriate."

"Neither has proposed a positive vision for creating a better tomorrow," Kriseman said in a statement. "And while Rick Scott is about the only major public official in the state who is supporting Bill Foster, I am proud to have Democratic and Republican leaders backing my campaign."

An hour later, Kriseman urged supporters to "chip in" between $25 to $500 to help "counter this news and help communicate my message."

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