Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Is Darden Rice running for St. Pete mayor? She’s raising money like she is.

Her fundraising has drawn the ire of current Mayor Rick Kriseman.
St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice, center, is raising money through a political committee. She won't say what for, though it's speculated she'll run for mayor. [SCOTT KEELER  |   Times]
St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice, center, is raising money through a political committee. She won't say what for, though it's speculated she'll run for mayor. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Apr. 23, 2019
Updated Apr. 23, 2019

St. Petersburg city council member Darden Rice won’t say if she’s running for mayor in 2021.

But the fifth-year progressive is raising money for something — political committee Friends of Darden Rice has collected more than $30,000 since its inception in January, according to state campaign finance records.

Rice said it's to "lay the groundwork for my next step."

"If you look at the numbers of what's been raised in previous mayoral races, it means that people have to start earlier," she said. "There's nothing wrong with reaching out to people early on and reaching out to people as early as possible."

Though, her zealous fundraising has earned her some shade from City Hall's current occupant.

“We are just over a year into my second term and this year’s council races have yet to even heat up, and so it’s both unusual and disappointing that fundraising and campaigning for mayor has already begun," Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is term-limited, said in a statement. "I believe all Americans, and certainly the residents of this city, want elected officials to focus more on policy and doing their jobs as opposed to perpetual fundraising and campaigning for their next elected office.”

Rice, who was not aware of the Mayor’s discontent until told by a reporter, clapped back, calling Kriseman’s statement “poor form” and “hypocritical given that he’s raising money now for his own (political action committee).”

"I'm one of the hardest working members on council, which cannot be disputed, and I'm one of his strongest allies," she said. "For the mayor to suggest that somehow my eye is off the ball, is, frankly, insulting."

Rice isn’t the only one eyeing Kriseman’s office. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch has also said he’s considering a run.

Kriseman’s political committee, Sunrise PAC, went on a fundraising spree late last summer, raising $54,500 from July through November, records show. It has raised another $5,500 since Feb. 1, and currently has $35,000 in its coffers. Finance records for April for both politicians’ committees were not yet available.

Both Kriseman and Rice were reelected in 2017.

Kriseman has previously said he’s not sure what he’ll do next, and that he’s raising money to back candidates and causes he supports. He recently dismissed a rumor he would challenge U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, calling the congressman a friend.

Rice, who has often opposed developers during her tenure on City Council, has taken $5,000 each from two prominent developers — her largest donations to date. One is John Catsimatidis, the New York billionaire behind Red Apple Group, which plans to build the city’s tallest tower on a block it owns along Central Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets. The other is Peter Leach, senior vice president of development at Southport Financial Services.

Leach said he gave to Rice because “I think she’d be a very good mayor for St. Pete.”

"Kind of that simple," he said.

Leach, a Democrat who says he supports women in government, has also given $14,000 to Tampa mayoral candidate Jane Castor’s political committee.

Catsimatidis, who in 2013 ran for New York City mayor as a Republican, did not return an email.

Rice said accepting those contributions isn’t a conflict of interest for her.

“I think I have a record of votes against bad development, but I most certainly support smart growth in the city,” she said.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. Julia Nesheiwat, Ph.D., Chief Resilience Officer, Executive Office of the Governor in 2019.
  2. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  3. Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes and Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton, talk during a joint session of the Florida Legislature, Tuesday, January 14, 2020, in Tallahassee.
  4. Amy Weintraub with Progress Florida (center), stands with other women during a press conference to speak out against HB 265, which would require minors to gain consent from their parents to get an abortion, in front of Florida Representative Jackie Toledo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 in Tampa.
  5. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms.
  6. From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC.
  7. From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)
  8. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon — is the former head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  9. Some have noted the similarities between President Donald Trump and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, even if they're in two different political parties.
  10. A pair of wood storks, left, and a large group of white ibis rest and feed in a wetland area off Loop Road in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Florida is home to more wetlands than any other state except Alaska. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2008)]
  11. Florida Power and Light has a large solar array in Sarasota.
  12. Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, while a federal judge heard arguments for an against the the Legislature's bill implementing Amendment 4.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement