Tuesday night’s primary shows that there is more to St. Petersburg than a kerfuffle over “The Lens.”
Real issues were behind Amy Foster’s victory for St. Petersburg City Council District 8, things like public safety, cutting crime and cleaning up neighborhoods.
As a group of more than 100 Foster supporters waited for election returns at the Queenshead restaurant on Central Avenue, the talk was not so much if she would win, but who she would face Nov. 5.
Her focus on “issues that matter” helped Foster win a night filled with nail biting and commotion over what the city should do with the inverted pyramid of the Pier. Not that the Pier is not worthy of public concern, but for Foster, there are so many more pressing issues are out there for the city to deal with.
On top of the polls throughout much of her primary campaign, Foster easily captured victory with more than 2,800 votes, an impressive 56 percent, making her clearly the person to beat in the general election.
As the only City Council candidate to publically state continued support to build the Lens, Foster instead stayed on the primary message, campaigning hard on the issues that she believes matter to citizen’s daily lives.
As a community organizer and volunteer, Foster also proved to be a shrewd fundraiser. Over the months, she gathered the support of an impressive number of local leaders, from the current and former City Councilmembers, County Commissioners, to labor unions and businesses.
She even had the blessing of Jeff Danner, the term-limited District 8 Councilmember, who Foster will likely succeed.
The real race was for the number two spot — the candidate facing Foster come Nov.
With 90 of the 92 precincts reporting, Steve Galvin received only 913 votes (a little over 18 percent) which makes him officially the runner-up. Galvin will now face Foster again in the general election. His campaign was plagued by a series of missteps and comments that seemingly came out of left field, such as advocating things like cutting garbage pickup back to once a week, and substituting it with a day of recycling. In the Florida heat, that is a questionable practice, at best.
After the abrupt departure of Johnny Bardine (his campaign manager) over lies the candidate made to the Tampa Bay Times about a lawsuit and an illegitimate child, Galvin will continue to face an uphill battle to establish his own legitimacy.
Alexander Duensing, poet and adjunct professor, received 792 votes (almost 16 percent) after a grassroots campaign that embodied the true ideal of retail politics. Many of his campaign signage was custom designed and hand-painted, often with calls to support local art.
In the Tiger Bay debate two weeks ago, Duensing said his personal opinion on the Pier is that it should take a more “Steampunk” vibe, saying it could use a look of Jules Verne technology.
Anyone with such creativity should have at least deserved a sympathetic ear from District 8 voters. A few more votes, and perhaps he would have had time to get his message out.
After an enthusiastic door-to-door canvassing of District 8, Duensing stayed true to his focus of being the one candidate that would “restore faith in the process.” He spent much of his time listening to the voters, trying to become the “true voice of the people” in the City Council.
Unfortunately, Robert Davis did not have much of an impact on Tuesday’s primary. With only 488 votes (9.76 percent), Davis really never caught on with voters. His ultimate role in the campaign was more on the sidelines than as a main player. In a perfect world, those votes would have gone to Duenising, giving him the push to compete with Foster in the general.
If there was one wish of the Foster campaign Tuesday night, it was this — a better showing by Duensing, with maybe an extra 125 (or so) votes. The tone of the election would have rested on just a handful of voters.
Campaigning against Duensing, unlike the one that will be with Galvin, would be more civil, and based on the issues. The voters of District 8 deserved that much.