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Donald Trump has lost moral authority to govern, Rick Kriseman says

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

By directly criticizing Donald Trump’s statements regarding Confederate symbols and monuments, Rick Kriseman is able to indirectly criticize Rick Baker for not calling out the president.

“By defending symbols of hate and hate groups and referring to white supremacists as “fine people,” Donald Trump has moved the presidency into uncharted territory and has lost the moral authority to govern our nation,” the St. Petersburg mayor declared on Thursday.

Kriseman is locked in an intense campaign versus Baker, who has led in the polls throughout the summer in advance of the August 29 primary election.

Though officially a non-partisan race, Kriseman is a fierce Democrat, Baker a proud Republican. In a city that leans Democratic, Kriseman has attempted to use party affiliation as a wedge issue against Baker.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, the president wrote that he was “sad” to see United States’ history torn apart by the removal of “our beautiful statues and monuments,” echoing a popular refrain of white supremacist groups that oppose the removal of Confederate monuments.

The tweets were the latest in a series of remarks that Trump critics say are validating the white supremacists groups involved in last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazi’s gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

While Hillsborough County has been embroiled all summer in regards to what to do with a Confederate monument, Kriseman acted swiftly this week when it was discovered that St. Pete had their own Confederate symbol within city limits.

“We will reject people and things that attempt to divide us or reopen old wounds. That’s why I wasted no time removing a confederate marker and why I support the efforts of our neighbors in Tampa and communities across America who are fighting to remove offensive tributes to the Confederacy,” Kriseman said, adding that it was “playing with fire’ to believe that voters should ignore the racial comments coming out of Washington.

“Not once, not even one time, has Rick Baker denounced Donald Trump,” Kriseman said, doubling down on his previous statements trying to tie his chief opponent with the president.

“As the leader of our city, it is up to me to stand up to and speak out against any elected official, including the President, who expounds bigotry and hatred, whose views are so contrary to those of our city, state and nation,” he said. “It is not enough to simply state general opposition to disturbing views and rhetoric.  A true leader stands up to, and calls out those who, like President Trump, engage in divisive conduct or speech or protect divisive organizations, like the white supremacists. To fail to condemn Trump for his defense of groups like white supremacists, is to side with them.”

Kriseman is not the only Democratic mayor in the Tampa Bay area to bash Trump over his comments this week. Earlier on Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn laid into the president as well.

“We have a president who today doubled down on his remarks of two days ago, he choose a side,” Buckhorn said. “That side was not the better angels of America.  That side was the hate groups and the Klan and neo-Nazi’s and the bigots in bedsheets that ran through this country in the South in the 40’s and 50’s that was the side that he choose, and those code words and those dog whistles that he used in these comments send a signal to those who would engage in these kinds of behaviors that it’s okay. It’s not okay”

Baker did respond earlier this week via Twitter, writing that, “Every American, including every public official at every level, has the moral obligation to reject and condemn the White Supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis and all others who promote racism. These groups trade in hatred and are responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, period.”

Nick Hansen, Baker’s campaign director, calls Kriseman’s statement one more example of a continuing “desperate” attempt to breath life into his “struggling campaign.”

“If he would focus on what is best for the citizens of St. Petersburg instead of playing poisonous national partisan politics than he would not have dumped 200 million gallons of sewage into the bay, he would not have ignored the wishes of the voters on the pier, he would not be tens of millions of dollars over budget on multiple projects, and our schools would not be failing,” Hansen said. “It’s time for Kriseman to wake up and realize he’s Mayor of St. Petersburg.”

 

 

 

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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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