The high-profile race between St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker will feature plenty of debate over the city's biggest challenges and each candidate's record. What it doesn't need is partisanship. Kriseman and Baker are from different political parties, but the mayor's race is not a choice between Democratic or Republican positions, and the candidates owe it to voters to stay above the partisan fray.
Kriseman, a Democrat who previously served in the Florida Legislature, is seeking a second term. Baker, a Republican who led the city from 2001-10, is seeking a return to the city's top post. But the election and job of St. Petersburg's top leader is officially nonpartisan. Among the challenges for the next mayor will be repairing the city's crumbling sewer system, building consensus on a new Pier, resolving the Tampa Bay Rays stadium quandary and creating opportunity in the city's economically disadvantaged southern neighborhoods. Party affiliation is immaterial to all those issues.
The statement by Kriseman's campaign manager that Baker's "high-profile work against our first African-American president disqualifies him" is an example of what not to do. St. Petersburg voters will choose the next mayor not based on his support for presidential candidates or his position on social issues such as abortion or the death penalty. Those are left to Congress and the Legislature. The overarching concern is who can best build on the city's momentum, provide efficient and cost-effective city services and protect public safety — not political party affiliation.