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Equality Florida revels in Rick Kriseman’s showing

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It may have been close, but for St. Petersburg’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Tuesday’s mayoral primary proved a significant victory.

And it gave the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida a chance to boast.

Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, who had trailed in both polling and fundraising throughout the race, narrowly edged former two-term Mayor Rick Baker by a slim 69 votes.

And while neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote – forcing a runoff in November – leaders at Equality Florida view it as a win nonetheless.

“Tonight we proved we know who our true friend is,” said Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. “Mayor Kriseman’s stellar record stands in stark contrast to Rick Baker who as mayor treated us with indifference and contempt. We made sure people remembered that in the primary, and we will be back in November.”

In a statement Wednesday, Smith pointed out that Equality Florida volunteers made 12,000 calls to 6,000 pro-equality voters, as well as launching an aggressive social media effort that reached thousands of Kriseman supporters.

One leading issue in the race was Kriseman’s history of support for the LGBTQ community, which earned him an early endorsement by the Equality Florida Action PAC.

In contrast, Smith blasted Baker for his record of “hostility” toward the LGBTQ community during his two terms as mayor, particularly his lack of support for St. Pete Pride while in office.

As of Tuesday night, Kriseman, a progressive Democrat who earned a rare endorsement by former President Barack Obama, was leading Republican Baker by less than a quarter point, performing much better than expected in the highly contentious primary for a traditionally nonpartisan seat.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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