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First fundraising report of the general election due today

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayoral hopeful Bill Foster raised more than three times as much as rival Kathleen Ford during the first fundraising period of the general election, according to campaign reports.

Foster, 46, raised $26,835 in the two weeks following the primary election, including $500 each from Mayor Rick Baker and his wife, Joyce. Foster, who is endorsed by the cityês two police unions, also picked up $3,500 from various law enforcement agencies.

"Getting the message out is the most important emphasis," said Foster, a lawyer. "Certainly finances help you do that, but you donêt buy City Hall, you earn it."

Ford, 52, raised $8,055 in monetary donations.

In the District 2 race, former police Chief Stephen Corsetti collected $150. City Council member Jim Kennedy earned $1,350.

In the District 4 race, City Council member Leslie Curran raised $335. Educator Pamella Settlegoode collected $50.

In the District 5 race, Angela Rouson raised $5,050. Social worker Steve Kornell did not turn in his report to City Hall. He can still mail it in postmarked by today to meet the state deadline.

In the District 6 race, City Council member Karl Nurse raised $2,225, Student Vel Thompson did not turn in her report to City Hall by 5 p.m. Friday.

In the District 8 race, City Council member Jeff Danner did not collect any cash. Consultant Leonard Schmiege did not submit a report to City Hall Friday.

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

Posted by Times Editor at 06:22:23 PM on September 18, 2009

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Pinellas straw poll looms for Senate race

UPDATE: The straw poll now looks like it will be in January to accommodate Crist's schedule (he is expected to visit party members in December), Pinellas GOP Chairman J.J. Beyrouti said.

The Pinellas GOP plans to hold a straw poll on the U.S. Senate race, among other contests, in December, county Republican Party chairman J.J. Beyrouti confirmed to Republicans this week.

As it's sketched out, Gov. Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio will speak in October and November at the party's monthly meetings. Beyrouti has said he wants the vote itself to big a large, attention-getting event for the party.

But' it's mainly notable because Pinellas is the backyard of Crist, and Crist has been getting swamped in similar polls of party regulars in other counties, including Pasco and Hernando counties.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer

Posted by Times Editor at 06:18:34 PM on September 18, 2009

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Mayor Rick Baker endorsed Jim Kennedy in District 2 race

ST. PETERSBURG -- Who didn't see this coming?

Here's the press release:

"St. Petersburg, Florida-St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has endorsed St. Petersburg City Council Member Jim Kennedy in his bid to retain his seat in District 2, the Kennedy campaign announced today.

"Jim Kennedy is the best councilman for District 2. He not only has the experience to navigate city hall, but he has a record of community involvement and getting things done while keeping fiscal responsibility at the forefront," Mayor Baker said.

First elected in 2001 and re-elected overwhelmingly in 2005, Mayor Baker also cited Council Kennedyês stewardship of the budget, reputation for sound fiscal policy, and his civic involvement in area organizations, such as Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) as reasons for his endorsement.

"Iêm very grateful to Mayor Baker for allowing me to be the first city council person to participate in the budget process with his cabinet and department heads. The knowledge that I have gained will help me continue to protect taxpayers' money," said Council Member Kennedy.

Jim Kennedy is the current St. Petersburg City Council Member for District 2, running to retain his seat. Appointed to Council in 2007, Kennedy serves as Chairman of the Budget, Finance, and Tax Committee and the Investment Oversight Committee. Prior to serving on City Council, Kennedy served as President and Treasurer of CASA. He is a practicing attorney."

Posted by Times Editor at 03:28:22 PM on September 18, 2009

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Get tickets to the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 debate

ST. PETERSBURG -- The St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 will present a televised debate between St. Petersburg mayoral candidates Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster on Oct. 12 from 7-8 p.m. at the Palladium Theater. A Conversation with the Candidates will air live on Bay News 9. Audience tickets will be distributed to the public beginning at noon on Sept. 28 at the Palladium box office, 253 5th Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Admission is free, and the box office hours are noon-4 p.m. weekdays. The debate is sponsored by Humana.

Posted by Times Editor at 03:00:21 PM on September 18, 2009

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Kathleen Ford's biography video

ST. PETERSBURG -- Learn everything you ever wanted to know and more about Kathleen Ford in a series of three videos produced by an online women's magazine called Women Taking Care of Business:

Posted by Times Editor at 02:58:19 PM on September 18, 2009

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David Welch tried to convince Deveron Gibbons to stay out of mayoral race

ST. PETERSBURG -- Former City Council member David Welch said he tried to persuade Deveron Gibbons to run for the District 6 seat Welch previously occupied instead of running for mayor.

Welch said he and his son, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, talked with Gibbons about his chances of winning the mayoral race before Gibbons entered the race.

David Welch said he told Gibbons he should run against Council member Karl Nurse for the District 6 seat and earn some experience before he ran for mayor.

Gibbons would not listen, David Welch said.

Gibbons placed third in the mayoral primary.

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

September 18, 2009

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Mike Atwater endorses Bill Foster for St. Petersburg mayor

ST. PETERSBURG -- St. Petersburg restaurateur Mike Atwater endorsed mayoral candidate Bill Foster Friday.

Atwater, owner of the political hotspot Atwater's Cafeteria, said he endorsed Foster mostly because Deveron Gibbons endorsed him Tuesday.

"I support my candidate's judgment and have now decided to follow suit and support Bill Foster," said Atwater, who previously endorsed Gibbons in the primary election. "It appears that he has integrity. He believes there is a God, he prays a lot and he is a fourth generation resident."

Atwater said Foster is a regular customer. Rival Kathleen Ford isn't.

"I liked Bill Foster a lot when he ran for City Council," Atwater added.

However, Foster should change his mind about refusing to sign the city's annual proclamation honoring the St. Pete Pride parade, said Atwater.

"If I am going to be mayor, I'm going to support the MLK parade, the Gasparilla parade, I'm going to support all parades," he said. "This is the twenty-first century. Everything goes. It's a diverse world."

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

September 18, 2009

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Did St. Pete Chamber leak Kathleen Ford's "pedophile" comment?

In a word, no. But the meeting apparently was supposed to be confidential, and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce officials are perturbed over this story.

"We have a process, we identified a problem, we are pursuing actions to rectify the situation by excusing the members of the committee if they violate confidentiality and/or do not follow the code of ethics," Jessica Eilerman, the chamber's director of public policy and tourism said in an e-mail. Yesterday, she told us the chamber also was concerned about a conflict of interest on the committee interviewing the candidates, which we assume refers to Ed Montanari, a prominent Bill Foster supporter.

Ford pointedly questioned how her comments were spread outside of the chamber's interview room, but it's unclear how big a deal she will make of it, considering her emphasis on transparency.

Adam Smith, Times Political Editor

September 18, 2009