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Perennial losing candidate known for ‘Go back to Africa’ rant first to file for St. Pete mayor race

The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. [EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. [EVE EDELHEIT | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 6, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The 2021 mayoral race has its first candidate.

Paul Congemi, perennial gadfly, filed his paperwork with the City Clerk on Tuesday. It will be his fourth mayoral run.

The Aug. 24, 2021 primary election is 628 days away. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates face off in the Nov. 2, 2021 general election.

Congemi, 62, made national news during the the 2017 election cycle when he told Jesse Nevel, a candidate affiliated with the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, that those he represents should “go back to Africa.” He also criticized Mayor Rick Kriseman, who ran for reelection that year, over the mayor’s support for the LGBTQ community. Congemi said he “will never endorse sin.”

That year Congemi, who appeared on the ballot as “Paul ‘The Truth’ Congemi,” earned 188 votes, or one third of one percent of the total ballots cast.

Congemi has previously referred to himself as a retired builder, a homeless advocate, a singer-songwriter, the founder of a political party and as a “constellation.”

While Congemi is the only one to have filed paperwork, more serious candidates loom. St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice has raised more than $100,000 through her political committee, Friends of Darden Rice. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch has said that he’s running. Welch said his committee, PELICAN PAC, an acronym for “Public Engagement Leading Innovative Communities and Neighborhoods," was registered last week.

Times Senior News Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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