Here’s what you need to know in St. Petersburg’s mayor, City Council races

With the primary approaching, meet the candidates and learn what’s happened so far in the races.
St. Petersburg City Hall. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
St. Petersburg City Hall. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Aug. 6, 2021

Election season is heating up in St. Petersburg, with less than three weeks to go until the primaries for mayor and three City Council seats.

Nine candidates are vying for the mayor’s office, and if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the votes in the Aug. 24 primary, the top two will move on to the Nov. 2 general election. Three of the five open City Council seats have more than two candidates running, and those races will have district-level primaries this month, with the top two vote-getters in each district moving on to a citywide general election.

Fireworks and a crowded field in the mayoral race

The mayor’s race has intensified this summer. A group affiliated with candidate Darden Rice said in a flier mailed to voters that opponent Ken Welch had ties to “Trump supporters” and “major Trump allies,” which Welch says is a “false attack” trying to paint him as a Trump supporter. And Welch’s camp pointed out that Rice has also taken money from “Republicans and developers.”

Related: In St. Petersburg mayor's race, an unexpected name comes up: Trump

Candidate Wengay Newton accused Welch of racism based on a text message in which Welch referred to former Mayor Rick Baker as “this massa.” Welch has denied that he had any racist intent and called Newton’s attack a “desperate attempt to smear my campaign.”

Related: Wengay Newton explains cryptic comment about Ken Welch

Meanwhile, candidate Robert Blackmon has come under fire from some tenants and advocates for filing eviction proceedings against three people living in apartments he owns. He dropped the eviction proceedings in July and has said he has a track record of increasing St. Petersburg’s supply of quality affordable housing.

Related: Amid outcry, St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon halts evictions

Eight candidates will appear on the ballot in the mayor’s race, and Michael S. Levinson is running as a write-in candidate. The Tampa Bay Times has written profiles on all the candidates:

Robert Blackmon: St. Petersburg mayoral run about ideas, not personalities

Pete Boland: Advocates ‘small business approach’ in St. Petersburg mayoral run

Michael Ingram: Could this 20-year-old be St. Petersburg’s next mayor?

Torry Nelson: Says he’s the right person to lead St. Petersburg, despite his past

Wengay Newton: Newton is passionate, persistent, combative

Marcile Powers: With an open heart, Powers runs for St. Petersburg mayor

Darden Rice: In St. Petersburg mayoral race, Rice points to her experience

Ken Welch: Welch wants St. Petersburg to achieve ‘inclusive progress’

Michael S. Levinson: Brings unorthodox ideas to mayoral race

Who’s running for City Council?

There will be elections this year for five City Council seats. Three of them will have primaries this month. Because the other two races each have only two candidates, those candidates will go straight to the November general election.

Retired dentist Ed Carlson, financial advisor Copley Gerdes, consultant and breast-cancer advocate Bobbie Shay Lee and attorney John Hornbeck are facing off in District 1. That election is happening two years ahead of schedule because Blackmon announced he would step down from the seat to run for mayor.

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Related: Learn more about the candidates in District 1

It’ll be a busy ballot in District 4, with five candidates: Tech entrepreneur Jarib Figueredo, lawyer-turned-neighborhood association president Lisset Hanewicz, bartender Clifford Hobbs III, investment banker Tom Mullins and private equity consultant Doug O’Dowd.

Related: Learn more about the candidates in District 4

The four candidates running in District 8 are former council member Jeff Danner, teacher and activist Richie Floyd, optometrist Dane Kuplicki and small business owner Jamie Mayo.

Related: Learn more about the candidates in District 8

And the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board has released its recommendations on the mayoral and City Council races.