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Winners and losers emerging from St. Petersburg’s primary elections

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Tuesday’s slate of elections in St. Petersburg certainly provided a list of winners and losers, and I’m not just talking about candidates. Here’s a list of the real winners and losers emerging from the city’s primary elections. Please let me know if I missed anyone.

Winners

Tom Alte and Megan SalisburyBlue Ticket Consulting went two-for-two Tuesday, consulting on the campaigns of both Rick Kriseman and District 6 candidate Gina Driscoll.

Charlie Frago and Mark Puente — The Tampa Bay Times’ reporting of the ‘Battle of the Ricks’ has been excellent. Even Adam Smith has written eloquently about the race. It’s a notable improvement from eight years ago when Heather Urquides was the city editor, and Christina Silva was the lead reporter #NeverForget.

Local media — In addition to Frago and Puente, several other local journalists have done a solid job covering the mayoral race. Kudos to Evan Axelbank of Fox 13, Gypsy Gallardo of Power Broker Magazine, Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Mitch Perry of Florida Politics, and Noah Pransky of 10 News.

Florida Democratic Party — It won’t come anywhere near making up for losing Florida in 2016 to Donald Trump, and it probably won’t compensate for a string of losses (mostly by default) in the this year’s legislative special elections, but Kriseman making it to the runoff is as close to victory as the FDP has come in a while. It’s sorta like that episode of Arrested Development when Jim Cramer raises The Bluth Company from a “triple sell” to a “don’t buy.”

Sally Boynton Brown — The executive director of the FDP worked behind the scenes to turn a local race into a statewide affair. Kriseman was able to count on Democrat volunteers from throughout the state, and it was Boynton Brown who organized much of that.

Jose Felix Diaz — The Republican running in the special election for a Miami-based state Senate can take comfort knowing that the FDP often struggles to walk and chew gum at the same time. And that’s what it will be doing, trying to help Kriseman in St. Pete and Annette Taddeo in SD 40.

Charlie Crist and Darryl Rouson — Two of Kriseman’s most visible cheerleaders stuck by Kriseman through thick and thin, rallying volunteers and serving as surrogates on the campaign trail. Don’t think for one second Crist isn’t enjoying sticking it to his one-time friend Rick Baker.

Rene Flowers — If there was one local pol who is all-in for Kriseman, it is Flowers, the African-American School Board member who had served with Kriseman on City Council. It’s no coincidence that when she said it was time for Kriseman to take the gloves off, the campaign began to perform better.

Barcley Harless and Brandi Gabbard — The two very competent candidates running for City Council District 2 have had to essentially wait for the primary to finish before running their campaigns in earnest. But be careful what you wish for, Barcley and Brandi, now you HAVE to attend all of the candidate forums.

Kevin King and Ben Kirby — Don’t dust off those resumes just yet, boys. Right now it looks like Kriseman’s chief of staff and communications director could get four more years of taxpayer-funded employment at City Hall.

LGBTQ community — No single bloc of St. Pete voters was more fearful of Kriseman losing than the LGBTQ community. That’s why it was extremely active on social media, where it was highly critical of Baker. The whole “backwards Baker” slogan really took root with the city’s LGBTQ residents. Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith summed it up this way, “Kriseman’s stellar record stands in stark contrast to 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.”

Mario Farias and the Callaloo Group — Had Baker become mayor-elect Tuesday, it would not have mattered that Kriseman had signed a contract with the Callaloo Group to take over the restaurant space in the high-profile Manhattan Casino. Baker would have leaned on them enough so that they would not have wanted to remain there. But now, with Kriseman still in power through at least November, the folks behind the Pipo’s Cuban restaurants have some breathing room.

Brock Mikosky and Matt Lettelier — It’s never easy to navigate a multi-way race like the one in District 6, so you have to give credit to Justin Bean‘s one-two punch.

St. Pete Young Professionals — In Bean’s victory, they see one of their own one step away from city leadership. This Chamber-backed organization has been heavily involved in the business and cultural aspects of the city; now they’re flexing their muscles politically.

Susan McGrath — Had Kriseman been aced out in the primary, the knives would have been out for the leader of the Pinellas Democratic Party. Instead of that happening, McGrath gets credit for helping to organize the grassroots Democrats who propelled Kriseman to his narrow victory.

Rev. Louis Murphy — As much as Barack Obama’s endorsement is being credited with shoring up the black vote for Kriseman, one Democrat very close to the campaign says the African-American vote started moving Kriseman’s way after the powerful pastor of Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Church officially came out for the mayor.

Jacob Smith — With his shaky resume (he was Hillary Clinton‘s organizing coordinator in Michigan), it was easy to underestimate Kriseman’s campaign manager. But if Kriseman won the primary based on his field campaign, then all the credit in the city belongs to Smith. Now let’s see if he’s ready for Round 2.

Tampa Bay Rays — The baseball team knows it will receive terms more to its liking under the Kriseman administration than it would if Baker were in office. That’s probably why the Rays have donated heavily to Kriseman. This fall, the Rays will not only be pushing to make the MLB playoffs but also for Kriseman to win a second term.

Darden Rice — The current chair of the City Council would have found it difficult to run for mayor in 2021 if it meant running against a Rick Baker seeking a fourth term. That still may happen, but now the odds of it are less so, which is good news for Rice, a major supporter of Kriseman. The same goes for Ken Welch.

Losers

Rick Baker’s ego — Forget all the horses*t you’ll read the day after the election about Baker and his campaign saying they always knew the race would go to November. That was not the original plan. The plan was to shock-and-awe the Kriseman campaign by dramatically out-fundraising the mayor and winning the race outright in the primary. But like Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. P.S. Baker predicted to me before he entered the race that he would win well over 60 percent of the black vote. Baker won Midtown by only 260 votes.

Robert Blackmon — Unless a recount finds five votes for the likable first-time candidate, it will be heartbreaking for him to have lost by just four votes. He should punch anyone who comes up to him and tells them they forgot to vote for him.

Goliath Davis, Deveron Gibbons — Baker was depending on Davis and Gibbons, along with former police leaders such as Cedric Gordon and Al White, to help deliver the black vote. Perhaps these gatekeepers are not as popular as they think they are. The first thing Baker needs to do in the general election is start campaigning more in Meadowlawn and less in Midtown.

Bill Edwards — ‘I gave this guy a job for five years, let him convince me to buy a soccer team, and even donated $50,000 to his campaign and all I got was this T-shirt.’

Adam Goodman — Ever since the TV guru because a college instructor/Fox News regular/op-ed writer, his ads have been, um, not as sharp as they once were. Baker looked downright angry in some of his commercials. Are these tough words for a friend? Sure. But where was Baker’s “woodshed” ad like the one Goodman produced for Jeff Brandes seven years ago?

Nick Hansen — Sorry buddy, but I have to put you in the L-column. You’re the campaign manager, err, director, so the buck stops with you. I know, I know, you wish the expectations game had not set up Baker to fail even if he won, but that’s how the game is played. Undoubtedly you have an answer for what Baker needs to do differently in the general to change the trajectory.

Peter Schorsch’s predictions — Sometimes I hate myself; four days ago, I told City Councilman Ed Montanari that Baker would end up at 48.9 percent of the vote. My recent blog posts, like this one and this one, were predicated on my thinking that Baker would not win the race outright, but then I got a wild hair up my a*s and went completely another way. Memo to self: trust your first instincts.

St. Pete Polls — The local polling shop was not wildly off in its forecast — it did predict a runoff — but it did not have Kriseman edging out Baker, either. As soon as it was apparent Kriseman would win, local social media was aflame with criticism about how wrong SPP’s surveys were. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

The Republican brand — St. Pete’s mayoral race was one of the first significant elections in the country since Donald Trump was elected. This is a Democrat-leaning city, so of course, Trump’s not going to play well in the ‘burg. But Tuesday’s turnout goes beyond that. Democrats, at least the ones in St. Pete, are energized.

Tim Nickens and the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — If there was one event during the campaign that was truly surprising, it was the Times recommending Baker over Kriseman. Judging by the reactions on Facebook from Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomlin and Kriseman communications director Ben Kirby, not getting the Times endorsement particularly stung. Turns out, the Times, which is particularly sensitive about backing the winner in the mayoral race, backed the wrong horse. It will be interesting to see what Nickens writes in the general election.

The Uhurus — For all their yelling and shouting … for all their clenched fists … for all their antics, Uhuru-backed mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel received just 944 votes, while Eritha Akile Cainion finished sixth in the eight-way District 6 race.

 

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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