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Kriseman endorses Ken Welch for St. Petersburg mayor

Welch scores a key endorsement as he takes on a crowded field of mayoral hopefuls.
Candidate Ken Welch shakes hands with Mayor Rick Kriseman during a press conference to announce Kriseman’s endorsement of Welch as the next mayor of St. Petersburg, Monday, July 19, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
Candidate Ken Welch shakes hands with Mayor Rick Kriseman during a press conference to announce Kriseman’s endorsement of Welch as the next mayor of St. Petersburg, Monday, July 19, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Jul. 19
Updated Jul. 19

Outgoing St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Monday endorsed former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch as his pick to lead the city.

“Ken has been at this for a long time, always on the side of right, always fighting for what’s right,” Kriseman said in a statement.

Kriseman touted Welch’s bipartisan support, saying Welch is consistent on his positions and is a man of integrity.

Standing in front of City Hall on Monday, Kriseman praised Welch’s track record on poverty, housing development and the environment. He said as cities face bigger and bigger challenges, he wanted a steady hand to lead St. Petersburg onward.

“I don’t know all of his opponents, but I do know a few of them, and none of them are as prepared as he is,” Kriseman said on Monday.

Welch is one of eight candidates for St. Petersburg mayor that will appear on the ballot. City Council members Darden Rice and Robert Blackmon, former state representative Wengay Newton, business owners Pete Boland and Marcile Powers, University of South Florida St. Petersburg student Michael Ingram and St. Petersburg native Torry Nelson are also vying for mayor.

Ken Welch delivers remarks just after Mayor Rick Kriseman announced his endorsement for Welch as the next mayor of St. Petersburg, Monday, July 19, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
Ken Welch delivers remarks just after Mayor Rick Kriseman announced his endorsement for Welch as the next mayor of St. Petersburg, Monday, July 19, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Welch, who would be the city’s first Black mayor if elected, has said he wants inclusive progress for St. Petersburg.

He’s campaigned on ensuring the redeveloped Tropicana Field site delivers on the unkept promises of new homes and jobs for the residents of the predominantly Black Gas Plant area — the neighborhood that was displaced before the stadium went up — as well as on things like improving the city’s transit, preparing for sea level rise and prioritizing investing in youth opportunities, such as upgrading the city’s recreation centers.

“I’m leaning on my experience and understanding of our city to tackle those tough issues, starting day one of my administration,” Welch said.

Welch, a Democrat, served on the county commission for two decades. He did not seek reelection in 2020 in order to run for mayor.

Related: In mayoral run, Ken Welch wants St. Petersburg to achieve 'inclusive progress'

In a statement, Welch said getting Kriseman’s endorsement is a “blessing,” adding that Kriseman “has been a visionary leader for our city and a steadfast advocate for those who need it most.”

At City Hall Monday, he thanked Kriseman for his foundational work in St. Petersburg and said he wanted to move the city to soar higher.

Kriseman, who is also a Democrat, is term-limited, meaning that an incumbent is not running for the mayoral seat. All city elections are officially nonpartisan.

The city will hold a primary election on Aug. 24, and if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two choices will compete in a general election on Nov. 2.

The new mayor will be sworn in on Jan. 6, 2022, and will serve a four-year term.

Related: Ken Welch backers in St. Pete mayor's race include prominent Republicans