Tampa Mayor Jane Castor endorses Ken Welch for St. Petersburg mayor

The mayor of Florida’s third-largest city weighs in on the race to replace Rick Kriseman.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced her endorsement of Ken Welch for St. Petersburg mayor on Wednesday morning.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced her endorsement of Ken Welch for St. Petersburg mayor on Wednesday morning. [ Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sept. 15, 2021|Updated Sept. 15, 2021

TAMPA — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Wednesday morning threw her support to Ken Welch to become the next mayor of the Sunshine City.

Welch, who finished first in the Aug. 24 primary, was scheduled to receive Castor’s endorsement outside Tampa City Hall.

In a statement released before the formal endorsement, Castor said she is excited to help Welch become her peer.

“Tampa Bay is at an inflection point. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that St. Pete elect a partner in progress, a proven inclusive leader, and a person whose deep roots uniquely position him to take St. Pete into the next great chapter of their city. The success of Tampa Bay is dependent on both the city of St. Pete and the city of Tampa working together and building relationships to ensure that everyone gets to share in the successes of our great region. I look forward to working with Ken on regional collaboration to ensure smart growth, a clean and sustainable water supply, and infrastructure investments that benefit Tampa Bay residents for generations,” Castor said.

Related: How Ken Welch can win the St. Petersburg mayor’s race

Although the bay area’s two largest cities have had a somewhat rivalrous and occasionally rocky political relationship in the past, cross-bay relations have improved under recent mayors.

Outgoing St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman didn’t endorse Castor or any of the other six mayoral candidates during her 2019 campaign. But Kriseman and Castor have gotten along well publicly, often talking through and sometimes coordinating responses to events such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Kriseman also spoke frequently about the importance of cross-bay cooperation, a theme that has been consistently voiced by Castor as mayor.

Buckhorn endorsed Kriseman in 2017 and campaigned for him in St. Petersburg, donated money and hosted events for his Democratic ally.

Welch, a longtime Pinellas County commissioner, said in a statement Wednesday morning before the announcement that he is honored to receive Castor’s support. They are both Democrats, although the mayor’s office is officially nonpartisan in both cities.

“Mayor Jane Castor is a lifelong dedicated public servant — she has worked for decades to make our neighborhoods safer and to make Tampa Bay an inclusive and welcoming community for everyone. She is a true partner in progress. I’m proud to have her support and with it, we will work to take our region to the next level and build inclusive progress for the next generation of Tampa Bay residents and visitors alike,” Welch’s statement read.

The runoff election is Nov. 2. Welch faces City Council member Robert Blackmon, a Republican.