In two weeks, St. Petersburg voters get to decide whom they want as their first new mayor in eight years — Ken Welch or Robert Blackmon, who will face off about the city’s biggest issues tonight.
The debate, hosted by the Tampa Bay Times and Spectrum Bay News 9, will begin at 7 p.m. and can be watched live on Spectrum Bay News 9 or online at tampabay.com/politics.
Welch and Blackmon walked away from the August primary as the top two candidates in a field of eight, with Welch taking in about 39 percent of the vote and Blackmon garnering about 28 percent. The general election is Nov. 2. The deadline to register to vote in the election has passed, but registered voters can find their Election Day polling location on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Election’s website.
Both Welch, 57, and Blackmon, 32, were born and raised in St. Petersburg. Welch spent five terms as a Pinellas County commissioner and Blackmon is a current City Council member for District 1, which covers the northwest part of the city that includes Tyrone Boulevard.
The debate will be moderated by Times political editor Steve Contorno and Spectrum Bay News 9 anchor Holly Gregory.
Though the city election is nonpartisan, endorsements have fallen largely along party lines for Welch, a Democrat, and Blackmon, a Republican. Welch has been endorsed by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, his former primary opponent Darden Rice, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, are some of the people who have endorsed Blackmon.
As of Oct. 8, Welch has brought in just under $1 million through his political action committee, Pelican PAC, and his campaign. Blackmon has raised about half of that through his action committee, Prosperous St. Petersburg, and his campaign.