Tuesday’s slate of elections in St. Petersburg certainly provided a list of winners and losers — and I’m not just talking about the candidates. Here is my list of the real winners and losers coming out of Tuesday’s elections.
Cesar Fernandez – Regardless of where Kriseman finished in the polls, his campaign manager turned heads for, well, not turning heads. It always appeared as if Fernandez put his candidate’s needs first and left the self-promoting at home. The same could not be said of other consultants or managers working in other races (see Janovsky, Nick.)
Jack Hebert – It pains me to give any credit to my former boss, but he deserves some for keeping Foster on message, especially during the dark months of April, May, and June when the polls showed Foster not only out of first place, but in danger of sinking to third. The mail, television and other media The Mallard Group created for Foster wasn’t terribly creative, but they were effective. I disagree with Hebert’s assessment that the black vote will not be key to who win’s the general election. In fact, Foster and Hebert may end up learning just how key the black vote is when it rallies behind Kriseman.
Gene Smith – Undoubtedly there is a story for where Gene was all those years he was away from the political scene, but no matter, he dried out enough to lead the grassroots and media effort to stop “The Lens.” His might be the comeback story of the year.
Gypsy Gallardo – Gallardo was the first to say aloud that the black vote was moving away from Ford, despite Go Davis’ efforts to deliver it. It’s not certain what Gallardo wants from all of her political involvements, but, as the usual suspects recede from power, Gallardo, with all of her hucksterism, may just be the most visible leader of a community unsure of its role in city politics.
Mark Puente – Let’s be honest: Puente didn’t have very big shoes to fill here, considering he’s following up on the work four years ago of Cristina Silva, who quickly split town after covering the 2009 mayoral election. Still the soft-spoken big man has offered insightful, straightforward reporting while covering a rather broad beat. The one thing you never sense when reading Puente’s work is that he has his finger on the scale. Unfortunately that has not been the case often enough when it comes to coverage of St. Petersburg’s City Hall.
Nicholas Weathersbee – Revenge is a dish best served cold, right? The city shut down Weathersbee’s (and many others) business at The Pier, leaving the candlemaker with plenty of time to campaign to “Stop the Lens.”
Realtors – The Florida Realtors Association sent a series of mailers (which looked and smelled a lot like material from some St. Pete blog) attacking Ford. By the time the mailers were sent, Ford was already on the decline. Still, tens of thousands of dollars in direct mail were that many nails in the coffin.
The St. Petersburg Chicken – It’s simple math: Before The St. Petersburg Chicken made its appearance, Kathleen Ford looked like a lock to finish in the top-two of the primary election for mayor. On July 11, Ford led the field with 32% of likely voters’ support, followed by Foster at 26% and Kriseman at 19%. Seventeen percent of voters had said they were undecided.
Steve Lapinski and Gregory Wilson – Another election cycle, another win for this political consulting team. Lapinski, Wilson and Co. navigated first-time candidate Amy Foster to a landslide win in a four-way race. Foster is all but guaranteed to win in November, giving this progressive dynamic duo another impressive victory for one of its clients, which have included Jeff Danner, Charlie Justice, Steve Kornell, and Janet Long.
Rick Baker – The former mayor can exhale now that his bete noire, Ford, is no longer a threat. To Baker ‘Anybody But Kathleen’ has always been his top choice. But heading into the run-off, Baker must decide whether he will hold his nose and support his ideological ally, Bill Foster, or betray his political party and endorse Kriseman, whom I think Baker likes and respects more than the incumbent. Either way, Baker can’t be excited by either option.
Kevin King – Sure, his guy — his meal ticket — has made his way into the general election, but it must sting for Kevin to not be an official part of Kriseman’s campaign. In fact, it has to hurt to be needlessly dragged through the mud, as King has on the blogs, message boards and in social media.
Michael Maltzan – Don’t cry for the high-profile architect from California whose plan for a new pier was soundly rejected by voters; Maltzan, along with several other architects and engineers, have already been paid several million dollars in fees. And now they don’t have to worry about building something.
Ed Montanari – Few individuals were more attached to “The Lens” than Montanari, who has been studying what to do next with The Pier for the better part of this decade. However, the rejection of “The Lens” is in no way a reflection of Montanari personally, so he will move on relatively unscathed to chair the next committee or blue-ribbon task force. He’s also the front-runner to succeed Bill Dudley for the District 3 seat on the City Council in two years. But first he must (perhaps a tad grudgingly) help Foster get re-elected.
Gene Webb – If I enjoy being a provocateur, Webb equally enjoys playing the role of cantankerous ol’ man. He’s been telling everyone to ‘get off his lawn’ via his columns on Patch, which will soon be out of operation, which will leave the former Police Department insider without a visible platform to tell folks that rocks weighed more in his day.
Ken Welch – Even though he is a Kriseman ally, Welch had to remain silent during the campaign because he is a member of the Canvassing Board. I’m sure he’d like to be out there campaigning for Kriseman. Or would he? If Kriseman wins in November, how will Welch run for mayor in 2017 against his fellow Democrat?
Johnny Bardine – Three months ago, Bardine was bragging about having not yet lost a municipal campaign. That streak is still intact, but not really. Bardine was hoodwinked by Steve Galvin into running that losing campaign. Fortunately for Bardine, he bailed out of that shit-show early enough to not be permanently damaged by association with Galvin. Bardine was also one of the seemingly dozens of co-chairs of the “Build the Pier” campaign, but that also can’t be counted as a loss against Bardine’s record. The real danger to Bardine’s win-loss record is his management of Jim Kennedy’s re-election effort which is in surprising danger of being upset by loon Lorraine Margeson.
Goliath “Go” Davis – The former police chief and deputy mayor bet the house, loudly it should be noted, on Ford dislodging Foster. Now that that won’t happen, the former HNIC of St. Petersburg will be exiled for at least another four more years. Go may still be a force south of Central Avenue, but his’ influence ends there.
Harvey Ford – Everyone says the same thing about Kathleen Ford’s gentleman husband: he’s one of the nicest guys in town. People also wonder how he can put up with her, but that’s really none of their business. Still, it must suck to, every four years, watch your loved one lose an election and in a way that reflects poorly on their character. I don’t know how Harvey doesn’t go up to people like me and knock our blocks off. But he doesn’t. Instead he’s a class act who always shakes the hand of even his wife’s most outspoken opponents. Maybe he belongs in the Winners column.
Richard Gonzmart – With his location at the old pier shuttered, the owner of the Columbia Restaurant chain had a sweetheart deal to build a new resto at the approach of The Lens. Now it looks like there won’t be any 1905 salads being made in St. Pete for quite some time.
Steve Galvin and his wife, Pam Cichon – Yes, Galvin has made it to the citywide general election, but only because the other two candidates in his district not named Amy Foster were tomato cans. Along the way Galvin has seen his numerous skeletons come from the closet, while his wife lost her job in City Hall because she was all but running his campaign on her government computer. Now this bizarre couple get to hang around for another two months at the end of which Galvin will lose handily to Foster.
David McKalip – Mean guys finish last is the lesson to be had here. The very smart, very involved Tea Party activist just would not accept the fact that the more he screamed at people, the less they liked him.
The polling outfit at the Tampa Bay Times – From the newspaper which had Mitt Romney winning Florida by six points came a July 23 poll showing Foster at 30%, Ford at 20%, and Kriseman at 17%. For the record, St. Pete Polls’ numbers a week out had Foster and Kriseman separated by just over a point — almost identical to where the race ended.