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10 things I think I think (for the last time) about St. Petersburg’s elections

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

1. I have to take umbrage with this line from Stephen Nohlgren’s (faulty) analysis of why Kornell won:

“For starters, the Kornell camp worried about last-minute smears by Rouson or her supporters, Lapinski said.”

Angela Rouson was never going to go negative against Steve Kornell because he was gay, simply because she doesn’t believe being gay is a negative. As for her supporters, of which I was probably her most vocal, we/I were never going to go negative against Steve because he was gay. It’s ironic, but I’ve been involved in three campaigns for candidates running against gay candidates (Farkas v. Eaton, Williams v. Rice and Kornell v. Rouson) and never once have the candidates I’ve worked with attacked their opponent because they were gay. So for Kornell and/or Lapinski to assume that I would attack someone because they are gay is some sort of reverse discrimination I do not deserve.

2. Just read on my newfound friend Steve Lapinski’s Facebook page that he is basically ‘retiring’ from local politics and that he “won’t be doing political stuff for 100 hours a week in 2010.” Steve, you ran a hell of a race for Steve Kornell, so it’s a shame to see you exit the stage so early. Still, one race in Gulfport and one race in St. Petersburg should not have driven you out of the business. The local Democratic Party needs you. Otherwise, all of our local candidates may get stuck with Mitch Kates.

3. We’ll never read about it on their pages, but the St. Petersburg Times screwed the pooch by releasing the polling information showing Kathleen Ford ahead by 5 points over Bill Foster. At least that is what one reporter who covered the race told me on Election Night. This reporter was not specific, but they insisted there was a problem apparent in the cross-tabs which showed that the poll was skewed. If this reporter is telling the truth, the Times is partially responsible for creating a horse-race where one did not exist.

4. Times’ reporters, such as Cristina Silva’s here or Stephen Nohlgren here, offering anecdotal evidence as statistical analysis is the worst kind of journalism because it reinforces fiction instead of fact. The idea that Bill Foster won the Mayoral Race because of his showing in Midtown is just as preposterous as Gypsy Gallardo’s argument that Deveron Gibbons lost because white Republicans did not turn out for him in the primary. The argument embodied in Silva’s paragraph:

Voting records support his theory. Early mail ballots had Foster slightly ahead, with only 50.5 percent of the vote. But he emerged as the clear victor once Election Day ballots were tabulated and 11 precincts that had been leaning toward Ford fell his way.

is the absolute worst kind of analysis I have ever read about an election. If she wrote this for a Research Methods course, she would have been laughed out of class by the professor. Her analysis is actually worse than just the eating-ice-cream-leads-to-increased-shark-attacks line of thinking. To state as fact that what Foster did at the end of the campaign did or did not influence the 11 precincts that had been leaning toward Ford is correlation theory to the nth degree.

5. All in all, the Times coverage of the St. Petersburg elections was subpar. The reporting, in print and online, during the primary was almost laughable. The coverage improved after the primary, if for no other reason than there were less candidates to cover. Still, there were some fundamental problems with the Times‘ coverage that kept it from meeting the newspaper’s high standards. First of all, the Times assigned a team of editors and reporters dangerously unfamiliar with the recent history that has defined this city and this election. For the life of me, I don’t know why the Times did not balance the coverage of two younger reporters with the perspective of a veteran journalist. Another failing of the Times‘ coverage was the decision to assign the same reporters who cover City Hall to the candidates running for City Hall. Finally, I think the opinion-side of the Times’ coverage left a lot to be desired. Did any one of the Times’ columnists deliver that “Oh-yeah” moment that crystalized the race. No, they didn’t. The only time the coverage rose to the moment was when Adam Smith offered his perspective. In fact, that’s how you know how bad the Times’ coverage of the Mayoral Race really was, because it pales in comparison to the coverage already being offered of the 2010 U.S. Senate race.

6. The most devastating line of the 2009 Election (not written by me) belongs to Adam Smith when he wrote:

“Yet for all those who herald Gibbons’ bio and potential, many also see a young glad-hander in an ill-fitting suit spewing vague answers about his agenda. Love the guy but hard to see him as mayor, say the skeptics.”

7. Now that the Election 2009 is over, it’s time to begin speculating about the 2011 and 2013 elections. In two years, Bill Dudley, Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton and Herb Polson are all up for re-election. I don’t know Dudley is feeling, but I’ve heard positive things. Still, he is likely to face at least two opponents, including Ed Montanari. Kornell may get a pass, then again a strong Republican like Bill Probst could decide to challenge him. Newton won’t get a pass, but who in that district could beat him. Now, if a popular white candidate moved into the district, Wengay could have problems in a citywide race. Herb Polson is considering not seeking a second term, but I’ve only heard of one solid name of who would replace him. Actually, this person could probably beat Polson straight-up, but they are waiting to see what Polson does.

8. But before we start thinking about 2011, remember, the City Council has to redraw the lines of its own districts.

9. As for 2013, it’s difficult to imagine anyone new emerging to challenge Bill Foster, who probably won’t do anything stupid enough to jeopardize his re-election. Certainly, no one will run against him from the right. If Deveron Gibbons decides to run against Foster, he won’t have the support he had for this year’s run. Few of Gibbons’ in-town, big-ticket donors are going to finance an insurgent bid against Foster. That means the only obstacle to a second term for Foster will have come from the Democratic left. Forget about Rick Kriseman or Scott Wagman challenging Foster. Maybe Ken Welch will decide to give up an ultra-safe seat on the County Commission to challenge Foster, but the polling I’ve seen does not bode well for any black candidate who decides to run citywide. So why would Morpheus risk his political career on an underdog race? He can do more good where he is at than out-of-office. Then again 2013 is four years away and the Mayans don’t think we’ll make that long.

10. Now, without further ado: The ‘burgies! Recognizing the best in political advertising in Tampa Bay.

The Third Place ‘burgie goes to Karl Nurse’s Campaign for its homage to the late Paul Wellstone:

The Second Place ‘burgie goes to the Florida Democratic Party for the direct-mail it produced for Kathleen Ford’s campaign:

The First Place ‘burgie goest to the Bill Foster Campaign for this TV spot, which helped change the direction of Foster’s campaign:

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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