In St. Petersburg’s mayoral race, former City Councilman and State Representative Rick Kriseman is definitely in third place, behind Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster. All of the internal and public polling, save one survey, bears this out. Even his campaign acknowledges he is in third place, although it insists it sees a clear path to victory. Or at least a clear path out of the primary election on August 27.
So how can Kriseman make it to the general election, where all bets will be off no matter whether he faces Ford or Foster? Here are five reasons Kriseman can still finish in the top two in the primary election.
1. The polling data shows that the largest cohort of voters remain undecided. While Kriseman trails both Ford and Foster in the polls, “Undecided” is leading them all. In one internal poll I’ve reviewed, 40% of St. Petersburg voters said they were “undecided.” In the polls, Kriseman is the candidate voters know the least about, yet he has the best favorable-to-unfavorable rating, meaning he has the most room to grow of the three major candidates.
The black vote is still mostly up for grabs. Forget about the unholy alliance between Ford and Goliath Davis. Much of the black vote is still undecided. Well, except for one decision: it is not going to Foster. Kriseman needs to lean on Darryl Rouson and Ken Welch and other Democrats to rally the black vote to Kriseman, who, while not a star south of Central Avenue, best represents the political views of most blacks.
2. Kriseman has raised the most money and he will continue to raise the most money. Even though I disagreed with Kriseman’s decision to not roll over to his mayoral campaign the money he raised for his legislative campaign, Kriseman has proven to be a successful fundraiser. By hauling in more than $50,000 from January to March, Kriseman raised twice as much as Foster during the first quarter. Look for Kriseman to equal this amount during the second quarter, giving him at least $100,000 to spend over the final two months of the primary. Also, look for outside, progressive-leaning groups to get involved in the election on Kriseman’s behalf.
3. Rick Baker has stayed relatively neutral. Every day Baker does not wrap his arm around Foster is another day Kriseman has to maneuver among Baker’s acolytes, of which I count myself, in the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Partnership, etc. Every day Baker does not headline a fundraiser for Foster is another day the Mayor goes without the $20,000 to $40,000 Baker could instantly raise for the incumbent. Every day Baker does not endorse Foster is another day the possibility of Republican Rick Baker endorsing Democrat Rick Kriseman remains alive; Baker just might come to the Machiavellian conclusion that Foster cannot beat Ford, while Kriseman might. And that would be enough to swing Baker into Kriseman’s column.
4. The Tampa Bay Times almost certainly will endorse, err, recommend Kriseman. There is no possible way that Tim Nickens and Co. endorse Ford. And I can’t see the Times recommending Foster, not since it all but declared war on him fifteen months ago. And we know that the Times already looovvveeesss Kriseman’s politics and worldview. The newspaper’s endorsement still counts for something, perhaps three to five much-needed points for Kriseman.
5. This is an assumption, but I reckon Kriseman will also have the best paid media campaign of the three candidates. Ford’s direct mail and TV spots, if there are any, is on par with what you see in an elementary school art class. Sure, Foster has the creative Jack Hebert on his side, but Kriseman has tmore money and the team in place to win the paid media war.