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Rick Kriseman supporters confident mayoral race will go to November

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Supporters of Rick Kriseman knocked on doors and called likely voters on Sunday, less than 48 hours before the primary election in St. Petersburg.

“I think the race has narrowed. It’s become a bit closer than what some of the polls have indicated,” predicted state Senator Darryl Rouson, who twice gave pep talks to volunteers at the campaign’s Midtown headquarters on 22nd Street South.

The surveys, most of them conducted by St. Pete Polls, have been remarkably consistent in showing former Mayor Rick Baker with a 5 to 8 point lead over Kriseman, while one Florida Democratic Party internal survey showed the mayor down by double digits.

If neither major candidate receives 50 percent plus one of the vote in Tuesday election, the two two finishers will continue to battle it out until November.

Baker has based much of his campaign around the issue of how Kriseman handled the sewage system crisis but Kriseman advocate Vince Cocks say Baker’s campaign is too focused on sewers.

“They’re finite,” he says. “They’re getting fixed,” citing the City Council’s approval of a $326 million plan to repair the city’s infrastructure system. “But climate change? That’s infinite. That affects generations to come.”

Kriseman has campaigned on his environmental record, acknowledging that while he could have handled the crisis better, he’s dealing with the real world implications of climate change and sea-level rise with St. Pete, helping to create the Integrated Sustainability and Climate Resilience Plan, which is considered a roadmap for the city to move to a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio in the coming decade, as well as incorporating  a climate action plan and a resiliency plan.

Several Democrats from Hillsborough County traveled across the Bay to campaign for Kriseman on Sunday, including Ione Townsend, the chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.

“Hillsborough wants to do its part, and we think that Mayor Kriseman is the right one for the St. Pete mayor’s job,” she said adding that she believes the mayor has made some “very progressive changes here” and says a vote to re-elect him will keep the city moving forward

While the black vote evenly split, most lawmakers who represent the community are backing Kriseman, including  Rouson, who publicly criticized Kriseman for the process in which he chose the Calaloo Group to  lease and operate the historic Manhattan Casino.

“I may have had a disagreement with him over process that’s on one proposal, (but that) doesn’t mean that it changes my endorsement,” he said.

“I think that when walkers go out, they need to remind people of Kriseman’s commitment to increasing the minimum wage, his embracement of the LGBT community, the diversity of human beings being involved in government and the social fabric,” Rouson said, noting the hiring of prominent black females like Leah McCrea as director of education and community engagement, Nikki Capehart at urban affairs and Kanika Tomalin as deputy mayor.

“That’s significant, and people need to keep that into consideration,” Rouson said.

There are more than 169,000 citizens registered to vote in St. Petersburg. A total of 67,820 ballots were mailed out to voters who requested them to vote early. Approximately half of them have been returned to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office.

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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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