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Jesse Nevel insists he’s not splitting progressive vote in St. Pete mayor race

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Uhuru-backed St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel heard complaints from some Rick Kriseman supporters saying his involvement in the primary election has divided the progressive vote and will help Rick Baker win the election.

Nevel rejects those charges.

“We’re not splitting the progressive vote, we’re proving to be the only progressive vote on the ballot,” says the 27-year-old Miami native, one of six candidates on the ballot. “If we weren’t running in this election, the only progressive vote would be not voting. If anything, Kriseman splits the progressive vote by pretending to be a progressive and using the term progressive as a disguise for more gentrification, more big development, and more of the same, and that’s not progress.”

Nevel was joined by Akile Cainion, another Uhuru-backed candidate running in the District 6 City Council race, at the Blue Nile in South St. Pete shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday. She says running for the City Council seat has been “an amazing experience.”

“I’ve met so many amazing people and have seen a city that has been completely transformed,” she said, referring to her and Nevel’s push for reparations and improvement to the conditions of the black working class “to the forefront of the mainstream.”

While much was made of the disruptive behavior by Uhuru supporters at debates in June and July, Nevel more than held his own in the debates he was invited to. Those invitations ceased after last month’s Bay News 9/Tampa Bay Times televised debate, in which only Baker and Kriseman were allowed to participate.

“That was very disappointing,” Nevel said about a lack of debates over the last month of the primary. “I think that it was deliberate because I think there was an obvious momentum that was being gained through those debates,” he said, adding that it was the presence of himself and Cainion in some of the debates that made them watchable at all.

“We were raising the critical questions, we were talking about the police violence faced by the black community, we were talking about gentrification and the effects of gentrification on the South side,” Nevel said. “We  were talking about affordable housing, homelessness, the real story behind the sewage crisis, which is of corruption at the highest levels of local government.”

Nevel believes he can win the mayoral contest, though the few polls conducted show that scenario far-flung. He said he has been truly “moved” by the campaign experience, “especially of this movement to bring reparations and the conditions of the black working class to the forefront of the mainstream.”

Cainion is hopeful that she will be one of two candidates in the eight-person field vying to succeed Karl Nurse as the District 6 representative. Unlike her opponents who talked often about their admiration for Nurse and his nearly nine-year career on the board, Cainion has criticized Nurse, who owns some properties in the district.

“We know Karl Nurse has been this huge gentrifier whose made a profit off the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and all these different kinds of things,” she says. “That’s the legacy that they want to continue, that’s the interests they want to work for.”

“Then you have me, who is very clearly for the interests of the black working class,” she adds.

Robert Blackmon, Jim Jackson, James Scott, Maria Scruggs, Justin Bean, Corey Givens Jr., and Gina Driscoll are also on the ballot for District 6 voters Tuesday.

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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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