ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Kriseman is working hard in his bid to unseat Mayor Bill Foster.
The former City Council member and state legislator outraised Foster 2-1 in the first quarter, collecting $51,381 in campaign donations.
City Hall insiders and many residents have wondered whether Kriseman has the prowess to raise the cash needed to battle Foster, who collected nearly $250,000 in 2009.
Kriseman said this first fundraising quarter is only the beginning.
"I'm certainly humbled and honored by the support," he said. "This is part of the reason I got into the race."
Candidates had until Wednesday to either deliver or mail their first-quarter campaign reports to the City Clerk.
When asked Wednesday how much he raised, Foster said he didn't have the reports in front of him and estimated his total at about $25,000.
"My campaign staff is handling the submission of the report," he said. "I believe their intent is to use the services of the U.S. Postal Service. I remain at work."
Campaign finance reports are considered a measurement of a candidate's organizational strength and can be an early indicator of success. Since at least 1993, the mayoral candidate who raised the most money has raced to victory.
Kriseman, who talks like a man who is measuring for new drapes in the mayor's office, said he gets chills when discussing his vision for the city and residents.
Foster, on the other hand, said recently that he plans to hit the campaign trail sometime this month.
As a candidate in 2009, Foster said he spent 12 hours a day seeking votes. Now, he said he needs 12 hours a day to run the city.
His campaign website Wednesday still carried the same message it has for several months: "Coming soon."
Kriseman said he is using every hour he can to reach voters.
He held a fundraiser in Tallahassee and another in St. Petersburg. He said the 236 people who donated to him this quarter is an indication that voters want a new leader at City Hall.
Still, his first-quarter contributions are lower than the city record of $117,000, set in 2009 by Deveron Gibbons, who lost his bid to Foster. During that same period in 2009, Foster raised $19,000.
Kriseman said the biggest issues he hears from voters are about the fate of the Pier and whether the Tampa Bay Rays will get a new stadium.
Kriseman, a lawyer, said he also is talking about economic development and ways to increase revenue without reaching into voters' wallets, adding: "These are issues voters are interested in."
Most of his largest donations came from lawyers or from Tallahassee, where he spent six years in the Florida House. The Florida Democratic Party also contributed $8,000 for staff salaries.
St. Petersburg lawyer Matt Weidner, who recently switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, gave Kriseman $500.
"As a long-term Republican, I find myself identifying more with Kriseman and other Democrats," he said. "They're what I want for my family."
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.