ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.
In a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times at 490 First Ave. S, Nevel argued he had been excluded from the debate by "big money" interests and because the Times sought to silence his message.
Kriseman and Baker will take part in the debate, sponsored by the Times and Bay News 9 along with the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, at the Palladium Theater in downtown St. Petersburg.
"It represents an attack on the whole idea of democracy itself," Nevel said. "It represents an attempt to control what issues will be talked about in this debate."
The Times, Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College have invited only Kriseman and Baker to the debate. Without complete local polling, the Times decided to rely on fundraising totals to determine which candidates will participate.
"I appreciate the frustration — this comes up in every campaign at every level and beyond Tampa Bay," Times Editor Neil Brown said. "But our priority is to provide the most meaningful televised debate among the most viable candidates, allowing a deeper dive into the issues during a limited one-hour time slot.
"Undoubtedly there will be numerous forums throughout the campaign that will include other candidates, and the Times will provide appropriate coverage of those events as well as stories about the candidates and their positions between now and Election Day."
Both Kriseman and Baker combined have raised more than $1 million, already a record for a city mayoral election. Nevel is the only other candidate to qualify for the mayoral race, and had raised $2,583 through the end of May, according to his most recent campaign filings.
Nevel threatened to sue co-sponsor Bay News 9 for violating the Federal Communication Commission's Equal-Time Rule, which requires that broadcast stations provide equal speaking opportunity to all candidates running for office.
Bay News 9 did not return a request for comment.
The Uhuru movement has invited Baker and Kriseman to take part in a July 9 debate but said neither candidate has responded.
"We don't intend on RSVPing to a debate moderated by a group that has endorsed one of the candidates," said Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith.
Baker campaign spokeswoman Brigitta Shouppe said they have not received the invitation. She could not say if Baker would attend.