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Billionaire developer of prime St. Pete real estate donates $23K to Rick Kriseman

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The candidates running for St. Petersburg mayor faced a Monday deadline for filing reports showing campaign-finance activity through June 30. Bill

As first reported on SPB, Rick Baker raised more than $300,000 in June for his bid to unseat incumbent Rick Kriseman. That is a staggering amount for a St. Pete municipal race.

On Monday, we learned that that 300K was split almost 50/50 between Baker’s campaign and his committee, Seamless Florida. Baker received another $25,000 from his boss, Bill Edwards, as well as $10,000 from the lobbying firm of Michael Corcoran, the brother of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Baker also received another $10,000 from a political committee controlled by Michael Corcoran, as well as from the political committees of Republican legislative leaders Wilton Simpson and Carlos Trujillo.

Baker’s committee spent more than $60,800 in June on television ads.

Kriseman’s political committee, Sunrise PAC, raised $47,500 in June, which may not close to what Baker’s committee picked up, but it is still a serious number, especially since the committee only spent $7,637 last month.

One check to Kriseman’s committee that may draw scrutiny: the $23,000 item from RA Real Estate of New York City. Who is that? It’s a company connected to Red Apple Real Estate, which is owned by John Catsimatidis.

A corporate entity tied to Catsimatidis paid $16.5 million for the 400 block of St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue in a deal that closed April 13, according to Pinellas County property records.

The property is 2.3 acres and can accommodate a mixed-use development of up to 800,000 square feet, Red Apple said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Business Journal when it put the property under contract in 2016.

At the time of the closing, Kriseman took credit that his “administration could facilitate a deal to put this block back in use.”

Catsimatidis, who ran for mayor of New York City in 2013, told the Tampa Bay Times in an interview that he is associates with both Baker (he “attended all of my wife’s New Year’s parties”) and Kriseman. When asked then if he planned to contribute to Baker, he said: “The other fellow seems like a decent guy, too.”

Clearly, Catsimatidis thinks Kriseman is a decent enough guy to contribute $23,000 to his campaign.

Or, perhaps, Catsimatidis is hoping to curry favor with an administration that does not 100 percent agree with his plans for the 400 block. Catsimatidis has said the project will be a mixed-used development that could include residences. Kriseman has indicated in the past that he thought downtown has enough apartments and condos and that hotel and office space would be ideal for the Red Apple project.

“If there is a need for more hotel space, we may do it. If not, we’re not going to do it,” Catsimatidis said last year.

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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