1. Florida Politics

Foster and Kriseman locked in tight race for St. Petersburg mayor

Published Sep. 20, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — People overwhelmingly believe the city is headed in the right direction, but they aren't sure Mayor Bill Foster is the one who should lead it, according to a new poll by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9.

The poll found the incumbent mayor and his challenger Rick Kriseman locked in a tight race that could find either man at the helm after the Nov. 5 general election. Kriseman was ahead by the slimmest of margins, with 40 percent of the vote compared to Foster's 39, well within the poll's margin of error of 4.8 percentage points.

Sixteen percent of voters remain undecided.

Foster said he was slightly disappointed with the results, especially given that 72 percent of residents like where the city is going.

"If we're going in the right direction, don't fire the guy who brought you through the recession," he said. "This just puts fire in the bellies of all my supporters."

On the campaign trail, Foster frequently mentions cranes in the sky, construction projects under way worth $500 million and how he steered through the tough times.

Kriseman, 51, said he thinks the poll shows voters recognize the rhetoric.

"Residents see through Bill's message that he's trying to take credit for everything," Kriseman said.

Foster isn't deterred by the tight race and vowed to refine his message to sway undecided voters and even win over Kriseman supporters. His campaign did a poll recently that mirrored the Times/Bay News 9 results, he added.

"We knew it would be close," said Foster, 50. "We know there's a lot of undecided voters. We're going to build on that momentum."

The poll, conducted Sept. 14-16 by Braun Research of New Jersey, surveyed 410 registered voters who said they will definitely or probably vote on Nov. 5.

In a city with a picturesque waterfront, a growing downtown and an exploding arts district, most residents were happy with St. Petersburg's progress. However, some attributed the latest developments to an improving economy rather than city leadership.

Real estate investor Shawn Seecharran, 51, said Foster's policies didn't increase property values or trigger building projects. By that same token, he said, Kriseman also hasn't offered any grand ideas to move the city forward.

"I don't like anything about either of them," said Seecharran. "(Foster) looks more honest than the other guy. That's all we have to vote on these days."

Musician Billy Marcus, 66, said he supports Foster because he's shown leadership in the stadium stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Bill Foster makes sense, " said Marcus, who lives in the Lealman area. "I don't know much about the other guy."

Dorothy Bell, 75, backed Foster in 2009, but not this year.

The retired university technician criticized the way Foster handled the Pier saga and the closing of the Sweetbay supermarket in Midtown.

Foster's policies have not done enough for the city's poorest neighborhoods, said Bell, who lives in Pinellas Point.

"That place is like a morgue," Bell said of Tangerine Plaza. "He could have done better. Kriseman sees that."

Eileen Conte, 70, agreed.

"Mayor Foster has done a good job. He's a nice man," said Conte, who lives in Allendale Terrace. "We need different ideas and enthusiasm. It's time for a change."

Even though the race is nonpartisan, many residents were swayed by party politics.

"I like the policies of conservative Republicans," said Peter Goodrich, a 61-year-old landscaper. "I don't like the policies of Democrats."

His only knock on Foster, a Republican, is that the city tried to build the $50 million Lens without voter approval. But Goodrich lauded Foster's handling of the years-old stadium saga.

"A contract used to mean something in the old days," said Goodrich, who lives in the Pasadena area. "How come there isn't any corporate support? Where are they?"

Since Foster took office in 2010, voters' opinions of the city have improved, according to past Times polls. In 2010, 57 percent of residents said the city was headed in the right track. In 2012, that number was 63 percent.

In the coming weeks, voters should expect an onslaught of television and radios ads and mailboxes filled with glossy fliers as both Kriseman and Foster work to win over those undecided voters.

"I'm not focusing on polls," Kriseman said. "We're still trying to send a message about jobs, education and strengthening neighborhoods."

Mark Puente can be reached at or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @ markpuente.


  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington. President Donald Trump's legal team will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    The former Florida attorney general reportedly will join former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
  4. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  5. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  6. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  8. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  9. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  10. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.