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The Buzz: St. Pete mayor's race heats up

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who says the stadium is a crucial issue in the St. Petersburg mayor’s race, throws the first pitch at the Rays-Yankees game May 24.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who says the stadium is a crucial issue in the St. Petersburg mayor’s race, throws the first pitch at the Rays-Yankees game May 24.

Bob Buckhorn opines on mayor's race

The Tampa mayor refuses to intercede in the debate over a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, but Bob Buckhorn said the St. Petersburg primary election is crucial in the yearslong saga.

Buckhorn said residents will be "increasing pressure on all of the candidates to stake out a position" on two of the city's most controversial issues: the stadium and the future of the Lens, the Pier replacement.

"The status quo is not going to be an answer," Buckhorn told the Buzz a day after tossing the first pitch at Tropicana Field. He added: "Those are the two issues that will dominate and suck the air out of that campaign over there."

So far, the top candidates in the Aug. 27 primary are Mayor Bill Foster, former council member Kathleen Ford and former council member and state legislator Rick Kriseman.

War chests and jabs

Rick Kriseman collected more campaign cash in the first quarter, but the money wars are brewing. More than 150 people were seen coming and going from Bill Foster's fundraiser Thursday night at Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill.

Kathleen Ford will raise money at a "coffee to discuss the future of St. Petersburg" June 15 at the home of Ardith and Nancy Rutland. Kriseman will join Sarah Butz and Rich Feigel in their home for a meet and greet on Tuesday.

Kriseman threw a punch after Foster tweeted about swimming at Jennie Hall Pool over the Memorial Day weekend.

A news release said: "Foster once proposed closing Jennie Hall Pool as part of a plan to plug a $14 million deficit."

Kriseman's team called the pool event a campaign stunt. "The people of St. Petersburg can see right through this," said campaign manager Cesar Fernandez.

Ford didn't tweet about the event or issue a news release.

Newton wants to be heard

Thursday's agenda-review session took two hours — courtesy of St. Petersburg council member Wengay Newton. The meeting typically lasts less than an hour.

In recent months, Newton, who proclaims himself the voice of the people, has dominated every question-and-answer session with Foster and staffers. He often asks the same question multiple times without getting new responses.

It's common for council members to roll their eyes, shake their heads or talk to one another when Newton speaks. He even carried on Thursday and demanded that City Attorney John Wolfe define "open forum."

Council chairman Karl Nurse must have forgotten the pledge he made in January after taking the position: He vowed to end lengthy debates by enforcing members' speaking time limits.

Schorsch's new gig?

Peter Schorsch is mostly known as a local blogger and political consultant, but now he wants to be a thing of beauty.

Foster wants the City Council to appoint Schorsch to the City Beautiful Commission, which promotes the beautification of the Sunshine City and maintains the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum.

Nurse nominated Schorsch, president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association, to fill the remainder of a three-year term expiring at the end of the year.

During agenda review, council member Bill Dudley questioned the choice since three residents of District 4 serve on the board. The full council will vote Thursday.

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @markpuente on Twitter. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @annamphillips on Twitter.

The Buzz: St. Pete mayor's race heats up 05/31/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 8:07pm]
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