1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Hagan v. Kriseman III (or is it IV?): This time it’s personal

After Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan says St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is endangering the region’s chances to keep the Tampa Bay Rays, Kriseman says Hagan ‘needs to be benched.’ The latest squabble over the fate of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan (pictured at the XFL announcement) and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are sparring. Again.
Published Jun. 19
Updated Jun. 19

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan told his fellow commissioners Wednesday that he was going to be blunt in his remarks about his old political nemesis, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Then he pulled out a rhetorical switchblade, slicing at Kriseman’s stance against any further cross-bay talks between the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa and Hillsborough County.

First Hagan announced that “everyone knows” that St. Petersburg can’t support a baseball team after reciting a long list of depressing attendance figures from this season. Kriseman, for the better part of a decade, has consistently said he thinks Florida’s fifth-largest city is the best place for baseball in Tampa Bay.

Kriseman has shot down Hagan and County Administrator Mike Merrill’s attempts to talk with the Rays and has forbid his city attorneys from speaking with their Hillsborough County or Tampa counterparts, Hagan said.

Kriseman’s position that Hillsborough officials can’t talk with Rays executives about relocating the team until after his city’s use agreement with the team expires in 2027 is the same stance as Bill Foster, the Republican mayor that lost to Kriseman in 2013 and remains an occasional critic.

“The bottom line is he refuses to sit down and have a discussion,” Hagan said. “He’s using the same flawed excuse that Mayor Foster used to make that the agreement prevents the city or the Rays from speaking with us."

Hagan said he’s confident Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is closely aligned with his position that the city and county should design an entertainment district in Ybor City that would raise revenue for a stadium. He said Irwin Raij, a New York lawyer who is now working for the Tampa Sports Authority, will be visiting Castor with him next week. Raij will also brief county commissioners, Hagan said.

His brief update drew no reaction from his six fellow commissioners.

Kriseman’s office lost little time firing back.

“Hagan’s remarks are nonsensical,” Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby wrote in a text, "because the Rays have never asked St. Petersburg for a new agreement to let them talk to Tampa.'' “As Mayor Kriseman has suggested before, it’s time for Commissioner Hagan to be benched. He’s struck out wildly on this issue countless times.”

Kriseman will continue the regional approach and expects to hear from the Rays by Labor Day “more about the Rays’ future desires," Kirby wrote.

The Rays didn’t respond to a call for comment.

Castor’s spokeswoman, Ashley Bauman, said Hagan and Castor met a few weeks ago but haven’t communicated since.

“Mayor Castor has always been of the opinion that the Tampa Bay Rays should stay in the region and we’re too large to lose a professional sports team,” Bauman texted.

The Rays stadium saga has stretched for more than a decade now. Ever since former mayor Rick Baker declined to support Rays owner Stu Sternberg’s plans for a St. Petersburg waterfront ballpark and the deal fell apart in 2008-09 , the search for a new home has ping-ponged between the bay area’s largest cities.

Kriseman won a hard-fought agreement to let the team look in Hillsborough for three years. That agreement expired at the end of 2018, a few weeks after the Rays balked at a proposed deal that would have built a $1 billion state-of-the-art ballpark in Ybor City.

The Rays said they were disappointed in Hillsborough’s offer because it lacked detail. The use of new federal tax credit zones and other forms of not-tried-and-tested methods of ballpark financing was said to have soured the deal. Hillsborough officials vowed to keep trying.

Kriseman and Hagan also have a history. Hagan publicized news of the Ybor deal in the midst of Kriseman’s bitterly contested reelection race against Baker in 2017. Kriseman suggested Hagan might be criminally liable after a television report surfaced alleging Hagan was trading insider information on the site near Adamo Drive. Hagan then threatened to sue reporter Noah Pransky and his station 10NewsWTSP for defamation. Pransky eventually left the station and the matter subsided, though Kriseman never apologized for his accusation.

Just a few weeks ago, Hagan told another television reporter that Kriseman needed to let Hillsborough talk to the Rays, prompting the mayor to compare the 17-year commission veteran to an amnesiac “Florida Man.”


  1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing $1 billion in increased teacher pay as part of a $91.4 billion state budget he put forward on Monday. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The Florida governor also wants to hire hundreds of new corrections officers and spend $1.4 billion on hurricane recovery.
  2. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
  3. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, filed a bill, HB 1161, to implement online voter registration in 2018.
    This week, GOP senators rallied support around Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, to become Senate president for the 2023 and 2024 legislative session.
  4. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, right, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. SUSAN WALSH  |  AP
    Experts on foreign policy said it was ridiculous to think that one person could turn a country “bad.”
  5. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP) SAUL LOEB  |  AP
    Almost 9 in 10 think the House impeaches Trump but the Senate won’t convict.
  6. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker speaking during 2016 graduation ceremonies at the Florida State University College of Law. [Florida State College of Law] Florida State College of Law
    The ruling, if it’s not overturned, means that President Donald Trump will not automatically be first on the 2020 ballot in Florida.
  7. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pensacola.
    Prosecutors say Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for...
  8. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Panama City City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. His wife Casey DeSantis is pregnant with the family's third child. He joked that the family will have to transition from "man-to-man to zone defense." (Joshua Boucher/News Herald via AP) JOSHUA BOUCHER/ THE NEWS HERALD  |  AP
    The federal judge had ordered that 17 felons not be removed from the voter rolls before a lawsuit goes to trial next year.
  9. In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary...
  10. The Capitol is seen in Washington on. Impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump come at the very time that Capitol Hill usually tends to its mound of unfinished business. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP