St. Petersburg: Rice, Foster, Nurse lead in City Council primary

Amy Foster speaks to supporters Tuesday at the Queens Head restaurant. She will face Steve Galvin for the District 8 seat.
Amy Foster speaks to supporters Tuesday at the Queens Head restaurant. She will face Steve Galvin for the District 8 seat.
Published Aug. 28, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Candidates Darden Rice and Carolyn Fries won the right Tuesday to battle on to the Nov. 5 general election for the City Council District 4 seat, narrowly edging out conservative neurosurgeon David McKalip.

Meanwhile, in the District 6 race, incumbent Karl Nurse won a large majority of votes and faces Sharon Russ. In District 8, Amy Foster won more than half the votes and will face Steve Galvin.

District 4

"We're thrilled with the results," Rice said Tuesday night. "We made a very serious effort to talk to the residents of my district one-on-one."

Rice, 43, a longtime community organizer who amassed the most campaign money and endorsements, led with about 46 percent of the vote. Fries, 46, a former president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association who has founded local technology companies, had about 26 percent. McKalip, 48, collected about 23.5 percent of the vote. Richard Eldridge, 51, a taxi driver who had previously run for mayor, had about 4.6 percent.

Rice said she believes she was ahead because "I'm the candidate who's most prepared to lead the city. I have the background, the vision and the plan, and I have the voters' trust."

Fries said she was optimistic at first and later "screamed wahoo, jumping around," when she saw she was one of the top two finishers. She said, "One, I worked really hard and second, I think I've got a good message."

McKalip reacted to his loss by saying "there are difficult years ahead for the city and America." He said he wanted to urge everyone to "embrace good moral choices and turn to God for tough decisions."

Now that the campaign to represent District 4 — which is being vacated by Leslie Curran and includes a swath of central and north St. Petersburg — is a two-person race, both candidates were ready to explain why they were the best choice. Rice pointed to her experience and support from firefighters, police, city workers and the business community.

"This isn't on-the-job training," she said, "and Carolyn's answers about mass transit have been largely incoherent."

Of Rice, Fries said: "Darden and I are very different, from our background, education and our experience. I think I have a wider variety of experiences than she does. I've been raising a family. I've been starting businesses, I've been volunteering. . . ."

District 8

The names of the four candidates for the District 8 council seat were practically unknown to voters before this summer. But among the political newcomers, Amy Foster, 35, stood out — 56 percent voted for her to succeed council member Jeff Danner, who is term-limited.

"I think the numbers were pretty close to what we expected and, you know, hard work pays off," she said Tuesday.

District 8 encompasses the neighborhoods of Historic Kenwood, North Kenwood, Disston Heights and Central Oak Park.

Foster, a national program manager for the EdLab Group, a nonprofit based in Seattle, was the sole council candidate in this race who supported the Lens design for a new pier. The position earned her criticism from Lens opponents, but does not appear to have eroded support in her district, where voters had three anti-Lens candidates to choose from.

Foster campaigned on public safety issues — focusing on the drugs and prostitution that have plagued 34th Street — and called for new police leadership. She leads in fundraising and has Danner's endorsement.

In the general election, which is citywide, she will face Steve Galvin, who finished second with 18 percent of the vote. By phone Tuesday, he said he had not seen the results and couldn't comment.

Galvin, 55, is a music producer and builder who has campaigned largely on his opposition to the Lens. Though some of his ideas for the city, such as installing a carousel in Williams Park, have earned him praise, Galvin stumbled in the run-up to the primary.

After the Tampa Bay Times reported that he had repeatedly lied about a years-old paternity lawsuit, his campaign consultant quit. This month, his wife left her job as an assistant city attorney after it was revealed that she had sent dozens of campaign emails from her work account.

Alex Duensing, 39, a former poetry teacher, got with 16 percent of the vote. He was "a little bummed out," he said, not to have made it out of the primary, but hoped to find ways to help people outside of politics.

Robert Davis, 53, a library assistant, got 10 percent of the vote.

District 6

City Council member Karl Nurse, 59, faced two opponents in his bid for a second term, but neither proved a serious obstacle. Nurse, who owns his own printing business, won the primary with 69 percent of the vote, a margin that virtually guarantees he will keep his seat in November.

"I really hoped for it, but nobody expects to win by that much," Nurse said.

Nurse will face Sharon Russ, a local activist who captured 19 percent of the vote, in the Nov. 5 general election. Trevor Mallory, 41, who manages the downtown night club Onyx and owns a trucking company, finished last with 12 percent.