ST. PETERSBURG — Is Rick Baker running for something?
The former St. Petersburg mayor from 2002 to 2010 posted a cryptic message on Facebook over the weekend about “upcoming plans.” He directed followers to his Twitter account, @bakerstpete.
“While you are there, please make sure to follow to stay up to date,” he wrote.
Does that mean he’s running for mayor again? Statehouse? Congress? So far, it’s unclear he’s running for anything.
But Baker seems to be activating.
He hopped on Sean Hannity’s afternoon radio show on Monday. Baker promoted the appearance on Twitter prior to hitting the airwaves. It was the account’s first tweet since Election Day 2017, the final day of Baker’s unsuccessful bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and reclaim City Hall.
Hannity had him on to gab about one of the conservative commentator’s favorite punching bags: blight in big (and Democratic-run) cities. The host started the segment guessing the number of weekend shootings in Chicago and demonizing the scourge of tent cities in California cities. He then quizzed Baker on his fight to curb homelessness as St. Peterburg’s leader a decade ago.
Baker recounted his administration’s crackdown on homelessness, starting with the establishment of the new encampment at Pinellas Hope. Once they had a place to go, “We started to enforce all the quality of life laws that (former New York City Mayor) Rudy Giuliani is so good about,” Baker said.
Hannity proclaimed the St. Petersburg solution should be a blueprint for cities like Baltimore and San Francisco.
“I just love the innovation of it,” the talk show host gushed, who went on to proclaim: “This guy may be the mayor of the century.”
During the 2017 campaign, Kriseman introduced national politics into the local race to an unprecedented degree, successfully painting Baker as a Donald Trump acolyte. It was enough for Kriseman to edge out a 3-point victory.
By clinging to Hannity, practically an adviser to Trump through his television set, is Baker leaning into that characterization? It’s an interesting move in a city that has elected a progressive mayor and City Council.
Meanwhile, there’s a “Draft Rick Baker” Twitter account, apparently trying to convince the Republican to run against U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in 2020. Crist already has two potential Republican challengers for his St. Petersburg-based seat — former lobbyist Amanda Makki and former city council candidate Sheila Griffin — but Baker would supersede them both immediately in name recognition.
Baker, though, has previously rejected efforts to recruit him to run against Crist. “I’ve concluded that I’m a better fit for an executive leadership position than a position in Congress,” he said in 2016.
Baker did not return a call for comment.