Daniel Ruth: From shadow mayor to Congress?

Published Oct. 29, 2015

Think of this as the 19th Hole Theory of Political Viability.

This is the phenomenon of the politician-in-waiting sitting around the clubhouse bar after a round a golf where a bunch of other pals pat him on the back as they encourage the poor soul to run for office.

Sometimes, they actually win. That is how we wound up with an ill-prepared Gov. Rick Scott, who admitted when he took office he had no idea that signing death warrants is part of the job.

A similar pattern is emerging with former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who is suggesting he might be interested in running against former Gov. Charlie Crist for the 13th Congressional District in Pinellas County.

Baker has said he is "intrigued" at the prospect of a congressional campaign after being encouraged by others. And just to underscore just how intrigued he is, Baker deflected an opportunity to talk about a race against Crist by having high-profile political consultant Adam Goodman return the call.

It's merely a guess, but having Goodman run interference on calls from ink-stained wretches might suggest Baker is more than "intrigued." Or perhaps, the former hizzoner simply likes the attention. After all, he floated the prospect of a congressional run on the very eve of Crist's entry into the race, prompting one wag to observe that Baker is the kind of guy who always wants to get married at someone else's wedding.

Goodman explained he was returning Baker's call because he doesn't want the former mayor to be "stampeded" into the race. But really now, this is St. Petersburg. There hasn't exactly been a flurry of paparazzi chasing after Baker demanding to know his political intentions. And three or four phone calls from political scribblers hardly rises to running of the bulls harassment.

For his part, Goodman mused that he believed Baker will indeed enter the congressional campaign, but then again, why would the ex-mayor enlist the consultant to be his interpreter if he wasn't ruminating about a run?

With all due respect to Goodman, a very savvy political operative, why would Baker run for Congress when he would have to give up his current post as the shadow mayor of St. Petersburg?

It is hardly a huge secret that with virtually every big issue confronting St. Petersburg — the Pier debate, the fate of the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, downtown development — you will find Baker stroking a cat while operating behind the scenes to influence the course of events and often at odds with incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Why then would Baker see a future for himself in Washington as a rookie congressman, sitting in a remote office, assigned to obscure committees and pretending to care about new House Speaker Paul Ryan's analysis of Ayn Rand?

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If Baker has a political jones he cannot overcome, it would make more sense to challenge Kriseman in 2017. After all, beating Crist on his own home turf is no easy task. Taking on Kriseman to return to the office Baker once held and received generally positive marks for holding would appear to be far more "intriguing."

Baker, through his muse, indicated he will continue to torture the public by waiting to reveal his political desires early next year. Oh, the cruel suspense of it all.