After today, Rick Baker is on the clock.
Assuming the lease expansion referendum for Al Lang Stadium passes today — and the polling indicates it will succeed by a wide margin — the discussion about whether the former mayor will challenge the current mayor, Rick Kriseman, moves from the abstract to the imminent.
Candidate qualifying opens June 8 and closes June 23, giving Baker six weeks to decide whether he wants to serve a third term in City Hall.
In reality, Baker doesn’t even have that much time. That’s because — and credit to the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith for putting in print what only a handful of local political consultants have realized — a possible Kriseman vs. Baker showdown could be decided before Labor Day.
The primary election is slated for August 29. If the winner of that race receives 50-percent-plus-one of that citywide vote, they win the whole enchilada.
During the previous two mayoral elections, one candidate shooting the moon in the primary was improbable given the number of candidates running. But with the 2017 race coming down to just Kriseman, Baker, and a few extras from The Walking Dead, it’s possible, if not probable, that either Kriseman or Baker will win in the first round.
It’s clear Kriseman is already running at full bore. He just raised another $100,000 in April, bringing his overall haul to north of $400K. He wouldn’t need to raise another dollar and he’d have enough to fight until September.
Baker also realizes — and is probably planning that — this race could be over after the first round. In fact, he’s likely counting on it. But even if he is, he still has a tall order staring at him. He has to build and finance a campaign in time for early voting, which begins in late July.
That’s right, voting in Kriseman vs. Baker would begin in late July.
Today is May 2. Were Baker to get out of the gate next week (in and of itself a tall task), he’d need to raise nearly $200-250K a month just to catch up with Kriseman’s fundraising. And even at that pace, that would not give Baker the air superiority he’d like. Better to put him down at needing to raise $300K a month for the first three months. No one is doubting Baker’s fundraising abilities, but that’s a lot of asking to do.
By the way, all of this speaks nothing about what Baker needs to do to build a winning organizational and volunteer base.
Here we all have been thinking Kriseman vs. Baker would be a November affair when, instead, it could be over before the fall. And we have Adam Smith to thank for pointing it out.