The new mayor’s choices will shape the city. But before they do, you need to choose the new mayor.
The Tampa Bay Times and Spectrum Bay News 9 are hosting a mayoral debate at noon Tuesday. The moderators, Times Political Editor Steve Contorno and Bay News 9 anchor Holly Gregory, will be asking attendees about some of the top issues facing the Sunshine City.
St. Petersburg residents will head to the polls for a primary election on Aug. 24. If no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two vote-getters will face off in the Nov. 2 general election.
Here are some things to know before it’s time to vote:
The role of the mayor
St. Petersburg operates with a strong mayor form of government, which means the new mayor will have a good deal of executive power while serving with an elected city council.
The seat is officially nonpartisan, though past candidates have pointed to party connections to highlight their ideologies. The new mayor will be sworn in Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, and will serve a four-year term.
Current mayor Rick Kriseman is term-limited, meaning this is the first time in 12 years that an incumbent won’t be running in the mayoral race. Nine candidates have qualified for the mayoral race (see more on them below).
The Trop’s top of mind for mayoral hopefuls. There’s a good chance the winning candidate will spearhead the redevelopment of the city’s 86-acre parcel that could uniquely shape St. Petersburg and will likely determine the Rays’ future.
Affordable housing continues to become an increasingly important issue too, as property values and rent steadily climb across the city. Candidates will also be judged on their views on issues related to public transportation, equity and growth. The new mayor will also play a role in shaping the future of the city’s policing.
Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, a third-generation St. Pete resident and veteran local politician, has already scored a bunch of high-profile endorsements. A registered Democrat, he said he’s focused on making the city’s growth inclusive.
Darden Rice, a Democrat finishing her second term on City Council, leads the pack in fundraising so far, having pulled in more than $500,000. The progressive candidate wants to create universal preschool and free two-year college and technical training if elected.
Fellow City Council member Robert Blackmon, a Republican and 32-year-old real estate investor, is a development-savvy St. Pete native who has championed affordable housing and other issues in his time on the council. He is the youngest person ever to serve on City Council in St. Petersburg’s history.
Wengay Newton, who previously served as a state representative and City Council member, touts his experience in his mayoral campaign. The registered Democrat says his biggest priority as mayor will be to boost city spending on youth jobs and after-school programs.
Restaurateur Pete Boland describes himself as a pro-small business moderate and promises to be a champion of the local hospitality industry. The registered Republican pushed last year against Kriseman’s mask mandate; both his restaurants received citations for staff not wearing masks.
The daughter of a political operative, Marcile Powers said she was surrounded by campaigns before she finished elementary school. Now she’s the name on the ballot. Powers, a registered Democrat who co-owns and runs Kenwood Organic Produce, has built her campaign on the tenets of empathy and nonviolent communication.
University of South Florida St. Petersburg student Michael Ingram is looking to put his political science education to practice. The 20-year-old is the youngest candidate in the field. The self-proclaimed progressive Democrat wants St. Pete to do more to tackle climate change, build more affordable housing and keep development local.
Torry Nelson is a late addition to the mayoral race, filing paperwork to run on Thursday, only a day before the end of qualifying. Nelson is listed as a no-party affiliated voter.
This race is one of many for Michael S. Levinson, who’s tried unsuccessfully as a write-in candidate for president, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. His unorthodox campaign centers on turning Duke Energy into a user-owned cooperative and planting hemp in St. Petersburg residents’ yards to capture carbon dioxide from the air. Because he is a write-in candidate for mayor, his name will not appear on the ballot.
Register to vote
The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 24 St. Petersburg primary election is July 26. You can register to vote online at registertovoteflorida.gov or find more information on registering and voting at votepinellas.com.