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PARTISAN VIEW OF A NON-PARTISAN RACE

As expected, Pinellas Democrats have thrown their support behind Kathleen Ford, the Democratic contender in the nonpartisan mayoral race.

Some excerpts from the e-mail that party supporters received last week:

"From a field of 10 candidates, two candidates emerged victorious - one progressive Democrat who promises more transparency and accountability from city government and one arch conservative Republican who once wrote to the local school board complaining that teaching of evolution led to the Columbine massacre.

"Democrat Kathleen Ford built her campaign on the backs of a dedicated volunteer base. With the help of the firefighters, SEIU and hundreds of local supporters, she was able to successfully present her vision for the future of St. Petersburg despite being out spent by most of the other candidates in the race."

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St. Pete firefighters: We helped Ford win

ST. PETERSBURG - The St. Petersburg firefighters union's endorsement of mayoral hopeful Kathleen Ford helped push her into the final two, firefighters said last week.

"Any time you can put 100 guys, 100 feet, on the street, it makes a difference," said Rick Pauley, vice president of the firefighters union, at Ford's victory party at Red Mesa Cantina.

After a 24-hour shift, firefighter Glenn Hadley picked up his 9-year-old daughter and then headed straight to Precinct 137 on Fifth Avenue N to campaign for Ford all day Tuesday.

"I've always supported Ford," he said.

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Deveron Gibbons held out until the very end

ST. PETERSBURG - His supporters munched on tortilla chips and guacamole, but Deveron Gibbons was nowhere to be found for the first 90 minutes of his campaign party Tuesday night at Push Ultra Lounge.

As the mail ballot results came in, they showed a 10 percent gap between Gibbons and frontrunners Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster.

At 8:15 p.m., campaign consultant Adam Goodman acknowledged the race was likely over.

But 15 minutes later, Gibbons said he still had hope. Told the numbers seemed to favor Ford and Foster, he responded, "We will see. I don't know."

Later, when the numbers clearly showed he could not win, he and Deputy Mayor Go Davis left the party for about 10 minutes to chat in a stairwell. He came back to give a positive concession speech.

"Now listen, this is a celebration. This is a party," he told a cheering crowd.

The nightclub was filled with leaders in the black community, including Assistant Police Chief Luke Williams, restaurateur Mike Atwater, state Rep. Darryl Rouson and Gershom Faulkner, a Democratic activist.

Mayor Rick Baker also appeared on stage to congratulate Gibbons.

Gibbons was an ardent supporter of Baker's in the 2001 and 2005 mayoral elections. Many assumed Baker would return the favor this time around, but he largely stayed away from Gibbons' campaign until Tuesday night.

Gibbons shrugged when asked about Baker's lack of support during the campaign.

* * *

Wagman postmortem: 'I'm done with politics'

ST. PETERSBURG - Mayoral candidate Scott Wagman was all smiles Tuesday evening, even as the election results quickly turned against him.

At his election party at the Outback Steakhouse on Fourth Street N, a congenial Wagman had to break the news himself to late-arriving supporters.

"We had high hopes to finish in the top two," Wagman said. "The public voted otherwise."

He said he will not seek elected office again.

"I'm done with politics," he said. "I went in here to be the CEO/mayor of St. Petersburg. Management and leadership is my strength. Being a professional politician was never on the menu."

* * *

Primary winners' first debate is Tuesday

ST. PETERSBURG - Fresh off the heels of victory, Bill Foster and Kathleen Ford will square off in a debate Tuesday at St. Petersburg College's Gibbs campus.

The 6:30 p.m. event is hosted by state Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, and SPC's Student Government Association. The debate will be held at the Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N, in St. Petersburg.

Times staff writers Cristina Silva and Jamal Thalji contributed to this report.

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