Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Politics

St. Petersburg poll shows tight race for mayor

ST. PETERSBURG — With the Aug. 27 primary still six months away, a new poll shows that Mayor Bill Foster has a narrow edge over challenger Rick Kriseman.

Foster leads Kriseman 38 percent to 34 percent, with 28 percent of voters undecided.

The automated telephone poll of 690 registered St. Petersburg voters was done Monday by StPetePolls.org, commissioned by political blogger Peter Schorsch. It has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.

Even with close numbers, Foster and Kriseman supporters shouldn't get excited.

Mayoral races in the Sunshine City typically field many candidates. Ten hopefuls battled in the 2009 primary.

Kriseman, 50, a former City Council member and state legislator, said he isn't focused on the numbers. Instead, he said he prefers to communicate his message to voters about economic development, public safety, quality neighborhoods and open government.

"People want an alternative to Bill Foster, but you don't need a poll to know that," said Kriseman, who entered the race last week.

Foster, 49, said it's too early to look at polls: "It doesn't dictate campaigns, strategies or governance."

StPetePolls.org, a division of Fextel Inc., is operated by Matt Florell, a local resident and frequent red light camera critic. Fextel, founded by Florell in 2008, specializes in telephone solutions for businesses.

Schorsch, who runs SaintPetersBlog.com and often works as a political consultant, said he has not worked for Kriseman or Foster in any prior campaigns. He said he commissioned the poll because "previous polling didn't reflect the real-time status of the race."

Foster should be worried with the tight numbers, Schorsch said, adding: "The public is very tuned in to city affairs."

Schorsch said he wanted to quiz voters other potential candidates as well since Foster and Kriseman aren't his top choice for the job.

Voters were asked if they wanted former Mayor Rick Baker to seek a third term. Forty-four percent said yes; 42 percent disagreed; and 14 percent were unsure.

If Baker entered the race, 40 percent of respondents said they would vote for him. Another 37 percent favored "someone else." Only 23 percent picked Foster.

Although Kathleen Ford hasn't declared her candidacy, the poll asked about the former council member and frequent candidate: 33 percent want her to run; 39 percent don't; and 28 were unsure.

The poll didn't ask about candidate Paul Congemi, who drew 0.3 percent of votes in 2009, and also is running again this year.

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

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