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Charlie Frago, Times Staff Writer

Charlie Frago

Charlie Frago covers St. Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Times. Previously, Frago covered Clearwater for the newspaper. He has also worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina and the City News Bureau of Chicago. In 2011-12, Frago was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He joined the Times in May 2013.

Phone: (727) 893-8459

E-mail: cfrago@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CharlieFrago

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  1. Rice decides against Congressional bid

    Blog

    Darden Rice thought about jumping in the political fray to challenge incumbent Congressman David Jolly, but ultimately decided that her spot on City Council was where she should stay — for now.
    Of course, if the state Supreme Court redraws the lines of the 13th Congressional District to include the Democrat-heavy southern neighborhoods of St. Petersburg, the 45-year-old first-term council member said Friday that she might reconsider.
    “Who wouldn’t?” she said.
    The  more than $400,0000 recently reported raised by Eric Lynn, the one announced Democratic candidate in the race, was impressive, Rice said. But that wasn’t the reason she decided against the race.
    “When you don’t have widespread name recognition, you need to raise a lot of money. I have name recognition. That doesn’t keep me out,” Rice said. “But he does get credit for doing exactly what he’s supposed to do.”
    Lynn issued a statement, praising Rice’s decision.
    “I respect Darden’s decision not to run. It is definitely better that the resources that would have been put towards an expensive primary fight are much better put towards taking on David Jolly next November,” he said. 
     Tampa Democrat Mary Mulhern, who is planning to move to St. Petersburg and enter the race, said Lynn’s cash haul so far is “impressive.”
    But she wants more details on who is giving and where they live.
    “I’m waiting to see where the money comes from,” she said.
    The former Tampa City Council member said she is busy laying the groundwork for a campaign and intends to run.
    Rice said she realized that there is more that she wants to accomplish on the city council.
    “I’m in a great spot right now,” she said. “I love the work I’m doing.”
    In her first 1 1/2 years on council, Rice has proven to be a reliable political ally of Mayor Rick Kriseman, supporting him on his failed plan to let the Tampa Bay Rays look outside the city for possible new stadium sites. She also back him on the initial bumps associated with the start of universal curbside recycling, although she recently called for changes to accommodate neighborhoods who want alley pick ups.
    After the Tampa Bay Times reported early Friday that she wasn’t running for Congress, Kriseman’s chief of staff Kevin King tweeted:  “We need her in St. Pete, working with @Kriseman to bring about change, attain city’s vision. We’re getting there.”
    Council member Karl Nurse, a close Rice confidant, said he had urged her not to run and was happy to learn that she’ll stay on council. 
    Nurse predicted a bright politcal future for his friend.
    “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mayor Rice down the road,” he said.
    Florida’s 13th Congressional District covers most of Pinellas County. Republican David Jolly won the seat in a March 11, 2014, special election following the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young. Jolly was reelected in November 2014 after the Democratic Party failed to field a candidate. 
    Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago on Twitter....

  2. St. Pete's Rice decides not to run for 13th District seat

    Blog

    ST. PETERSBURG — Darden Rice thought about jumping in the political fray to challenge incumbent Congressman David Jolly, but ultimately decided that her spot on City Council was where she should stay — for now.
    Of course, if the state Supreme Court redraws the lines of the 13th Congressional District to include the Democrat-heavy southern neighborhoods of St. Petersburg, the 45-year-old first-term council member said Friday that she might reconsider.
    “Who wouldn’t?” she said.
    The  more than $400,0000 recently reported raised by Eric Lynn, the one announced Democratic candidate in the race, was impressive, Rice said. But that wasn’t the reason she decided against the race.
    “When you don’t have widespread name recognition, you need to raise a lot of money. I have name recognition. That doesn’t keep me out,” Rice said. “But he does get credit for doing exactly what he’s supposed to do.”
    Lynn issued a statement praising Rice’s decision.
    “I respect Darden’s decision not to run. It is definitely better that the resources that would have been put towards an expensive primary fight are much better put towards taking on David Jolly next November,” he said. 
     Tampa Democrat Mary Mulhern, who is planning to move to St. Petersburg and enter the race, said Lynn’s cash haul so far is “impressive.”
    But she wants more details on who is giving and where they live.
    “I’m waiting to see where the money comes from,” Mulhern said.
    The former Tampa City Council member said she is busy laying the groundwork for a campaign and intends to run.
    Rice said she realized she wants to accomplish more on the city council.
    “I’m in a great spot right now,” she said. “I love the work I’m doing.”
    In her first 1 1/2 years on council, Rice has proven to be a reliable political ally of Mayor Rick Kriseman, supporting him on his failed plan to let the Tampa Bay Rays look outside the city for possible new stadium sites. She also back him on the initial bumps associated with the start of universal curbside recycling, although she recently called for changes to accommodate neighborhoods who want alley pick ups.
    After the Tampa Bay Times reported early Friday that she wasn’t running for Congress, Kriseman’s chief of staff Kevin King tweeted:  “We need her in St. Pete, working with @Kriseman to bring about change, attain city’s vision. We’re getting there.”
    Council member Karl Nurse, a close Rice confidant, said he had urged her not to run and was happy to learn that she’ll stay on council. 
    Nurse predicted a bright politcal future for his friend.
    “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mayor Rice down the road,” he said.
    Florida’s 13th Congressional District covers most of Pinellas County. Republican David Jolly won the seat in a March 11, 2014, special election following the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young. Jolly was reelected in November 2014 after the Democratic Party failed to field a candidate. 
    Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago on Twitter....

  3. Darden Rice will not run for David Jolly's seat in Congress

    State Roundup

    ST. PETERSBURG — Darden Rice thought about jumping in the political fray to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, but said Friday that she had decided her spot on the City Council was where she should stay — for now.

    But if the state Supreme Court redraws the lines of the 13th Congressional District to include the Democrat-heavy southern neighborhoods of St. Petersburg, the 45-year-old first-term council member said she might reconsider....

    Darden Rice, considered by many to be an intriguing candidate with a promising political future, announced Friday that she has decided to not to run for the congressional seat.
  4. Only 70 houses missed so far in St. Pete recycling roll out

    Blog

    St. Petersburg---A day after some residents in a southeastern neighborhood complained about being skipped over in the city's initial recycling pick up effort, Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration reported only 70 houses citywide had been skipped in the first two days of the fledgling program.

    How many of those dwellings were in Bayou Bonita Park, near Coquina Key, is unclear, said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman. ...

  5. Recycling kickoff leaves Bayou Bonita Park residents feeling left out

    Blog

    ST. PETERSBURG---- By most accounts, the city's universal curbside recycling kickoff went smoothly. The first neighborhoods to get their big, blue bins picked up Monday were on the city's southeastern side. Mayor Rick Kriseman stood with the Old Southeast Neighborhood Association's president to symbolically christen the city's belated entry into the recycling game.

    But, farther south, at least some owners of the 100 or so homes in Bayou Bonita Park,along the shores of Little Bayou, followed the heavily-publicized celebration in confusion, then dismay. Their bins never got picked up....

  6. Democrat Lynn responds to carpetbagging attacks in Pinellas congressional race

    Blog

    As the jockeying for position intensified this week among possible Democratic candidates in the 13th Congressional District, a familiar line of attack surfaced: political carpetbagging.

    In 2014, Republicans successfully used the claim against Hillsborough Democrat Alex Sink in the special election won by incumbent David Jolly.

    Earlier this week, St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice referenced Sink's defeat when she cautioned against a repeat of Democratic candidates without long-standing ties to Pinellas County. Rice will make a decision on the race early next month....

  7. Democrat Eric Lynn responds to Pinellas 'carpetbagging' attacks

    Blog

    As the jockeying for position intensified this week among possible Democratic candidates in the 13th Congressional District, a familiar line of attack surfaced: political carpetbagging.

    In 2014, Republicans successfully used the claim against Hillsborough Democrat Alex Sink in the special election won by incumbent David Jolly.

    Earlier this week, St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice referenced Sink's defeat when she cautioned against a repeat of Democratic candidates without long-standing ties to Pinellas County. Rice will make a decision on the race early next month....

  8. Pinellas congressional race heats up with likely entrance of Mulhern, Rice

    National

    ST. PETERSBURG — The race for the Democratic nomination in the 13th District has gone from the slow cooker to the frying pan.

    Earlier this week, just as former Obama administration official and St. Petersburg native Eric Lynn officially kicked off his campaign, St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice said she was seriously considering a run against Republican incumbent David Jolly, surprising former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern, who said she wouldn't have entered the primary race if she had known Rice was planning a run....

    St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice plans to make her official decision in early July.
  9. Pinellas congressional race heats up with Mary Mulhern ready to run, Darden Rice seriously considering

    Blog

    The race for the Democratic nomination in the 13th District has gone from the slow cooker to the frying pan.

    Earlier this week, just as former Obama administration official and St. Petersburg native Eric Lynn officially kicked off his campaign, St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice said she was seriously considering an run against Republican incumbent David Jolly, surprising former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern, who said she wouldn't have entered the primary race if she had known Rice was planning a run....

  10. St. Petersburg City Council candidate field finalized

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG— A crowded field of five emerged to replace outgoing City Council member Wengay Newton while incumbents Steve Kornell and Charlie Gerdes drew one challenger each as the qualifying period ended Monday.

    Only one seat won't have a race. Ed Montanari, 57, an airline pilot and veteran civic volunteer, won by default because he was the only candidate who filed to replace term-limited council member Bill Dudley. The other four city council seats aren't up for re-election....

  11. Newton enters crowded field in St. Petersburg City Council race

    Blog

    ST. PETERSBURG---Winthrop "Will" Newton, the brother of City Council member Wengay Newton, qualified Friday as a candidate in the race to replace his term-limited older sibling.

    Will Newton, 49, also known as "Winnie," retired in 2012 after 23 years as a city firefighter/EMT. For 11 of those years, he also served as the union chapter president. 

    He now works as the district vice president for the Florida Professional Firefighters, covering Pinellas and Pasco counties....

  12. City ponders purchase of private home, acreage to expand Abercrombie Park

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tucked behind live oaks and slash pine, the three-story, wood-frame house in west St. Petersburg hardly looks like real estate with a public purpose.

    But it's not the house that has caught the attention of Mike Jefferis, the city's parks and recreation director. It's the 2 acres surrounding it that has Jefferis using phrases like "once in a lifetime" and "grand slam."...

    Evelyn Kuttler’s 2.3-acre estate was built on top of American Indian shell mounds and borders Abercrombie Park. St. Petersburg is working on a proposal to buy the property.
  13. St. Petersburg announces "smart growth" personnel moves

    Blog

    St. Petersburg-- Mayor Rick Kriseman announced a shuffling of his economic development team Thursday, a change designed to pursue growth in targeted areas, including marine sciences, financial services and the creative arts.

    Sophia Sorolis, the city's economic development manager for the past eight years, will be the point person for the "Grow Smarter" strategy, which also seeks to attract and develop businesses in specialized manufacturing and data analytics, according to a news release....

  14. St. Petersburg council candidate had troubling legal career

    Politics

    ST. PETERSBURG — When Sheila Scott Griffin announced her candidacy last week to replace term-limited City Council member Wengay Newton, she listed several occupations, including consultant and transportation manager.

    But Griffin, 57, had a previous career as a lawyer, in which her law license was suspended in 2007 and 2011. She practiced under the name Sheila D. Turner, according to the Florida Bar....

  15. Kriseman got some, but not all, of his asks on state budget

    Blog

    St. Petersburg--- Mayor Rick Kriseman got some good news from Tallahassee this week as lawmakers wrangled a budget deal, but other items on his wish list will have to wait.

    Among the successes:  $4 million for statewide homeless programs; $50,000 study for possible extension of the Albert Whitted Airport runway and $12.3 millon for the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg's Kate Tiedemann College of Business....