1. Florida Politics

Who's out, who's likely in next St. Petersburg mayor's race

Published May 14, 2012

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster generates little enthusiasm among African-Americans in his city, and it's easy to find civic leaders who quietly grumble that he's in over his head or lacks vision. He's also well known, generally liked and an incumbent.

In other words, he's probably vulnerable but challenging him for re-election in 2013 would be no cakewalk for potential contenders.

Most often mentioned: City Council members Leslie Curran and Jeff Danner. State Rep. Rick Kriseman is considering it, but a post-C.W. Bill Young congressional seat could look more enticing. County Commissioner Ken Welch is out.

But Buzz keeps popping up about a political giant jumping in: former Mayor Rick Baker.

Don't worry, Mayor Foster. Your predecessor all but ruled it out — at least in 2013 — when we asked him last week.

"It's not my intention," Baker said. "I'm not saying I never will. I'm not saying I won't down the road."

Priebus feeling secure

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was in town last week raising money, meeting with convention officials, and sitting down for a Political Connections interview on Bay News 9.

He spoke about the importance of the convention to give Mitt Romney a bounce to beat President Barack Obama, promised that Florida Republican activists will have plenty of access to the convention, and brushed off the concerns of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn about people with concealed weapons permits being allowed to bring firearms near the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"I understand the mayor's frustration, but in the end the Secret Service is going to decide, and I would rest easily knowing that they'll be in charge," Priebus said.

The Secret Service won't allow firearms within the arena or the security perimeter around it.

The interview airs today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

View on gay marriage

Obama may now be a backer of same-sex marriage, but Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is either still evolving, playing it safe or simply not on the same page.

"I have a record fighting against discrimination and standing up for people's civil rights based on their sexual orientation. I believe marriage should be left to the states, and Florida voted on same-sex marriage in 2008," said Nelson, referring to the ban approved that year.

And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio? "I disagree with him on that position," Rubio said of Obama after the president announced his support for same-sex marriage. "I agree with the old Barack Obama."

Mack misses votes

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack missed a series of votes last week, including the symbolic GOP measure to replace Pentagon cuts with spending on food stamps and social programs, adding to a growing list of missed votes since he started running for U.S. Senate.

Mack, R-Fort Myers, missed all six votes Thursday. It's already becoming an issue for him in the Senate race and we'll continue to see an escalation of attacks by Democrats, mindful of how it hurt Democratic Rep. Jim Davis in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

Said Mack: "We're going to do the best we can to run an effective campaign and make sure we do our work here in Washington."

But are you concerned about voters' perception? "We're going to do our best to make sure that we campaign hard and do our job here in Washington."

Eyes on Senate post

Billing himself as the first Pinellas resident since John Stansel Taylor in 1925 to have an opportunity to be Florida Senate president, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is hosting a May 16 fundraising reception at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Contributions, starting at $250, will go toward his Florida Leadership Fund, "which will aid the campaigns of senators pledged to support his candidacy for Florida Senate president" in 2016.

State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, also has his eyes on the Senate presidency then, and one Tampa Bay state Senate race could turn into a proxy fight between him and Latvala: Republican state Rep. Jim Frishe of St. Petersburg vs. Rep. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg. Frishe is a Latvala ally already running for state Senate while Brandes is expected to be in the Thrasher camp, but is coy about whether he will run again for the state House or go for the Senate.

When will Brandes make an announcement? "More than days, less than weeks," he told Buzz.

Romney in Florida

Romney will be in Tampa on Wednesday for an afternoon fundraising reception at Avila Golf and Country Club. The minimum donation is $2,500 per person, and a $10,000 check or a $25,000 bundle of checks gets you into the VIP photo reception. It's part of a two-day Florida swing, where he'll also hit Miami, Jacksonville and Boca Raton to raise $5 million to $8 million.

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam C. Smith can be reached at