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Tampa Bay Times and Spectrum Bay News 9 to host St. Petersburg mayoral debate

The debate between Ken Welch and Robert Blackmon is set for Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.
Ken Welch and Robert Blackmon
Ken Welch and Robert Blackmon [ Times files ]
Published Sep. 27
Updated Oct. 15

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Times and Spectrum Bay News 9 are partnering to host a debate between St. Petersburg mayoral runoff candidates Ken Welch and Robert Blackmon.

Both candidates have agreed to debate at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The debate will be shown live on Spectrum Bay News 9 and at tampabay.com/politics. It will be moderated by Times Political Editor Steve Contorno and Spectrum Bay News 9 anchor Holly Gregory.

Welch and Blackmon were the two top vote-getters in the Aug. 24 primary. Welch, a former Pinellas County commissioner, garnered 39 percent of the vote. Blackmon, a St. Petersburg City Council member, finished in second place with 28 percent.

The general election to decide who will be St. Petersburg’s next mayor is Nov. 2. With outgoing Mayor Rick Kriseman term-limited, this is the city’s first open mayoral race since 2009.

Welch had to put a pause on his campaign after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. His symptoms were mild and he made the best of it by fundraising from home. He is back on the in-person campaign trail rallying support and meeting with Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

Most recently, Welch has earned endorsements from state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation.

Blackmon spent a few days off the campaign trail grieving his friend, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Keith McCants. He held a general election campaign kickoff Sept. 15 and has been canvassing neighborhoods to rally support.

Blackmon has been endorsed by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls and former City Council member Kathleen Ford.

Last week, Welch and Blackmon discussed the arts and tourism at an in-person forum sponsored by St. Pete Catalyst and held at the Dali Museum.