A vote for Will Newton for City Council is a check on Rick Kriseman

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

During St. Petersburg’s 2013 mayoral primary, I explained that I was voting for Rick Kriseman as a Machiavellian block against Kathleen Ford.

To quote myself:

“The polls … show Ford and Kriseman neck-and-neck, with Ford, perhaps, holding a slight lead. Honestly, up until someone bravely donned a chicken suit and drew attention to Kathleen’s numerous faults as a candidate, I did not think it was possible that Ford would not make the run-off. But that is where the race finds itself — with a chance of knocking out Kathleen Ford in the primary.

“To do that, Rick Kriseman will need every vote from residents like me who aren’t particularly satisfied with Foster, but aren’t sure of Kriseman. All we are sure of is ‘Anybody But Kathleen.’ “

Voting for Kriseman and against Ford turned out to be the right decision for myself and many other St. Petersburg votes. But now the tables are turned. It’s against Kriseman that St. Pete voters should cast their ballot.

Five candidates are competing to replace Wengay Newton as District 7’s representative on the St. Petersburg City Council. The top two vote-getters among Lisa Wheeler-Brown, Sheila Scott Griffin, Aaron Sharpe, Elvert Lewis Stephens, and Winthrop “Will” Newton will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.

According to the most recent polls, the real race is currently for second place, as Newton has a comfortable lead over Griffin and Wheeler-Brown.

Voters in District 7 undecided about whom among these two candidates to vote for should cast their ballot for Griffin, if for no other reason than Wheeler-Brown (to whose campaign I contributed $500) is most closely aligned with Kriseman, and the most liberal elements of the City Council and civic activists.

And if Wheeler-Brown is to emerge from the primary, St. Petersburg voters should cast their ballot for Newton as a check on the outsized ambitions of Mayor Kriseman and his staff.

The most significant policy difference between Newton and Wheeler-Brown is Newton’s opposition and Wheeler-Brown’s support of an agreement Kriseman reached with the Rays that would allow the club to look for a new stadium location outside of St. Petersburg before its lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027.

Newton, like his brother Wengay, opposes Kriseman’s agreement with the Rays, reports The Tampa Tribune. “We’re just not anywhere close to where we need to be, I believe,” he said.

Wheeler-Brown qualifies her support for Kriseman’s plan by saying she is for it as long as the Rays are “accountable to the taxpayers.” It’s unclear what Wheeler-Brown means.

This issue is likely one of many where Newton would serve on Council as a check on Kriseman. No one knows what the hot issues will be in 2017 and beyond, but voters can be sure that Newton will ask the same kind of hard questions of the mayor and city staff that his brother has become known for.

That’s the kind of check-and-balance needed on St. Petersburg’s City Council.

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.