Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Politics

Kriseman rejects campaign chief's remark about the black vote

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman denounced a comment from his campaign manager that he could have won the election without conquering 19 precincts populated by African-African voters.

Days after Tuesday's election, campaign manager Cesar Fernandez boasted on Twitter that Kriseman "did not need the African American vote to win" and that Kriseman could "still have come out on top" if Foster won those votes.

Late Monday, Kriseman said he learned of the tweet Sunday and described it as a "very insensitive" remark.

He attributed it to Fernandez likely doing a post-election analysis.

"When he did that he was no longer working for me," Kriseman said of Fernandez, 24. "That's not my view. I don't share that."

The mayor-elect said he could not have defeated Mayor Bill Foster without support from the black community, adding: "I was honored to have it."

In Tuesday's election, Kriseman won 67 of the city's 92 precincts and topped Foster 56 percent to 44 percent. The black neighborhoods south of Central Avenue became the city's biggest battleground for votes in the campaign's final weeks.

In the analysis on Twitter, Fernandez sent eight tweets about what the campaign focused on to win the contest. The tweet offended two black leaders.

Goliath Davis, the former deputy mayor and police chief, said he knocked on doors to help Kriseman win black votes.

"I regret the insensitive remark of the former campaign manager," Davis said. "I'm confident that sentiment doesn't reflect how Mayor-elect Kriseman feels about the African-American community."

Ray Tampa, former head of the NAACP local branch, called Fernandez an excellent political operative but said he shouldn't be "cherry-picking" votes in his analysis.

"Every vote counts," Tampa said. "I know how hard Rick Kriseman worked to get the African-American support. It makes it even more of a horrible thing for Cesar to say."

Many black residents accused Foster, who won the black vote in 2009, of not doing enough to help revitalize the struggling neighborhoods.

Two weeks before Election Day, Foster opened a Midtown office and vowed to hire a high-ranking administrator to focus on developing Midtown.

Election records show that Kriseman could have still won the contest by about 1,000 votes even if black votes were not a factor. Still, his wide margin of victory resulted from the support of black neighborhoods.

Fernandez tweeted late Monday that Kriseman couldn't have won without a diverse coalition of support: "My analysis failed to recognize that and I apologize."

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

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