ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster sent out an email blast Thursday lambasting challenger Rick Kriseman for turning Tuesday's primary election into the most partisan race in city history.
It's another sign that Foster views Kriseman — and not fellow challenger Kathleen Ford — as his biggest roadblock to a second term at City Hall.
On the same day, Kriseman collected an unusual endorsement from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a fellow Democrat, Foster sent out an email to supporters noting that 75 percent of Kriseman's campaign donations have come from outside the city.
Further, Foster said, $30,000 came from the Florida Democratic Party. The mayor also criticized the former City Council member and state lawmaker of importing a campaign manager and consultants from other areas.
"Follow the money and one can see where Mr. Kriseman's allegiances lie," Foster wrote.
Foster, a Republican, also questioned how Kriseman can tout growing small business when 70 percent of his campaign spending leaves the city. He says $26,000 went to Pensacola for printing, nearly $40,000 to Tennessee for television ads and nearly $7,000 to Texas for research.
Conversely, Foster said two-thirds of his donations came from the city and 87 percent was spent locally.
The posting was the harshest Foster, 50, has directed at either challenger.
Kriseman's campaign called Foster "desperate" days before Tuesday's primary.
"He is one of the least popular mayors in Florida and a majority of the voters in St. Petersburg have lined up behind another candidate in this race," said campaign manager Cesar Fernandez.
"The truth is that Rick Kriseman is the only candidate who has bipartisan support in the mayor's race. He is running a campaign to bring people together to find solutions to the problems we face."
Foster's declaration came a day after the mayor denounced mailers attacking Ford, 56, also a former council member.
An Orlando-based group tied to the Florida Realtors has sent multiples mailers blasting Ford about her term on the council in the 1990s.
Fernandez stressed that Kriseman, 51, also collected endorsements from Republicans, including council member Leslie Curran.
"I think Foster honestly woke up today and realized two-thirds of the city doesn't support him," Fernandez said. "It's weak."
Contact Mark Puente at email@example.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @ markpuente.