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City Council candidates Robert Blackmon, Jim Jackson exchange attacks during radio forum

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg District 6 candidates Robert Blackmon and Jim Jackson appeared on WMNF’s MidPoint program Thursday, where Blackmon took several verbal shots at Jackson, accusing him of a lack of awareness about what’s going in District, while Jackson spoke critically of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s handling of the sewage crisis.

Blackmon and Jackson are two of the eight people running to replace a term limited Karl Nurse in November. Early voting is currently underway for the August 29 primary; the two top finishers will then run in the November general election.

The 28-year-old Blackmon, one of two registered Republicans in the race (the other is Justin Bean), received an endorsement earlier this week from former Mayor Bill Foster. When asked if he’s supporting Rick Baker for mayor, Blackmon deflected, saying only that Baker supported him and “been a good friend.”

The 72-year-old Jackson is a progressive Democrat who spent most of his career in the education system. He worked on the Barack Obama presidential campaign and volunteered on other Democratic campaigns in Pinellas County. However, Jackson spoke disparagingly of Kriseman’s handling of the sewage problem.

“He hid. He lied. He had his spokesman make up stories, he ran away from the press,” Jackson declared. “Two years later, now we have a plan in place. It’s going to cost us at least double, it’s going to take us a decade to catch up where we are.”

Blackmon asked Jackson who he supported for mayor?

Jackson declined to respond and went back to his soliloquy in critiquing the Kriseman era.

“Rick was on a roll for the first two years,” Jackson said before he believes it all went south. “He didn’t put good people around him. They lied. He lied. It’s hard to come back from that. He is stuck in the sewage here.”

After Jackson had said one of the things that he learned as a candidate running in District 6 this summer is its rich diversity, Blackmon pounced when he was asked the same question.

“I’d say I haven’t learned a lot because I’ve already been in these neighborhoods before a few months ago,” Blackmon said. “I think it’s great that Jim has learned about these neighborhoods. I’ve been living in them.”

The two also quibbled when asked if they favored raising the living wage in St. Petersburg. While Jackson went with the $15 an hour that has become the rallying cry for liberals in St. Pete, Blackmon said that “the sky’s the limit,” saying that there was a shortage of construction workers in the city (Blackmon renovates buildings for a living).

“That’s just naive,” Jackson replied.

After Blackmon had criticized Jackson for not providing any solutions, Jackson fired back.

“Robert, why are you attacking me?” he asked. “I am one of eight people in this race.”

And you’re one of one in the room with me. And we’re debating the issues, and I don’t think you’re doing a good job of addressing them,” sneered Blackmon.

“Bully, bully. bully,” Jackson chided.

The other candidates in the race include Akile Cainion, Maria Scruggs, Corey Givens, Jr., James Scott, Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll.

Election Day is August 29.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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