Continuous coverage, live-blogging of Election Day in St. Petersburg

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It’s the final day before St. Petersburg chooses a new mayor. Democrat Rick Kriseman is challenging incumbent Republican Bill Foster. 

In this blog post, SaintPetersBlog.com’s Action News Team of Phil Ammann, Ben Kirby, Linda Hersey and myself will be offering running coverage and commentary of the last 24 hours of the campaign.

Please keep checking back. 

7:43 p.m. – Signing off the live-blog…

7:41 p.m. – Quote from Karl Nurse: “Clearly, the city is ready to move forward faster.”

7:34 p.m. – Statement from Florida Democratic Party’s Allison Tant:

“I want to congratulate Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman on his victory. I know that Rick will be the hands-on leader that St. Pete needs in tough economic times. Tonight, voters have again rejected the candidate backed by Rick Scott and the Florida Republican establishment. The voters of St. Petersburg have shown Rick Scott and his Republican allies that they have no faith in the GOP’s ability to help middle class Floridians.”

7:26 p.m. – Tweet, tweet: @SaintPetersblog in David v. Goliath matchup @DardenRice has Pyrrhic victory with record financial advantage & closest result #malpractice

7:20 p.m. – Congratulations to Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman.

7:15 p.m. – Looks like the votes which have been counted are coming from NE and west St. Pete. Lots of Midtown votes left to count.

7:12 p.m. – St. Pete Polls had Kriseman with just a one-point lead among early and mail-in voters; Kriseman could be in for a bigger-than-expected win.

7:07 p.m. – With early ballots counted, Rick Kriseman is leading Bill Foster 55% to 45%.

7:02 p.m. – Here we go…

6:42 p.m. – You could shoot a bowling ball through Bill Foster’s election party and not hit anyone, judging by this photo from Mark Puente.

6:39  p.m. – Former mayor Rick Baker tells me that this will be first time since 1986 he won’t be at an Election Night party for a mayoral candidate.

6:36 p.m. – Final prediction: Rick Kriseman 53%, Bill Foster 47%.

5:53 p.m. – The bracketing to explain Bill Foster’s impending loss has already started. Florida GOP trying to spin how hard it is for a Republican to win in St. Pete. Tell Rick Baker about that?

4:58 p.m. – Is today’s mayoral election in St. Pete a preview of Charlie Crist vs. Rick Scott? 

4:41 p.m. – Looking at the final fundraising reports, it’s interesting to note that Tea Partier David McKalip, who ran unsuccessfully for the Dist. 4 seat, gave money to underdog candidates Steve Galvin and Sharon Russ.

4:24 p.m. – Speaking outside of the polling place at the Church of the Beatitudes, Darden Rice said that she has worked hard to stay focused on her campaign goals and connect with voters.

“We’re feeling happy, wrapping up 10 months of hard work,” said Rice, accompanied by several campaign workers wearing “St. Pete Strong” T-shirts and carrying “Rice for Council” signs.

She said that her carefully managed campaign worked hard to keep the message consistent and on “our terms,” which meant not responding to, or engaging in, attacks.

“We’ve stuck to our message,” said Rice, who is inclusive in her conversations. Looking ahead, she said that the Council “works as a team with the mayor.” Her priorities include mass transit, universal recycling and bringing jobs to Midtown.

rice, darden - shaking hands

4:13 p.m. – Dist. 8 candidate Amy Foster: “Just stopped by the office and volunteers are rocking the phone bank turning out every vote to bring change for this great city.”

4:04 p.m. – Southside voter Michael Jones, voting in his first election, said he chose the candidates who represented change for the city and for improving schools. He said that the status quo no longer works for his community.

Jones said he voted for Rick Kriseman for mayor, as did his mother, Wanda Jones McCree, who accompanied him to the polls at Lakewood United Methodist Church, at 59th Avenue South and MLK.

Jones McCree said she had been “on the fence” two weeks ago about her choice for mayor. Today she voted for Kriseman, saying that she believes he will listen and respond to concerns.

Jones McCree said that she and her husband happened to be dining at a local restaurant recently, when Mayor Bill Foster was sitting at a table nearby. She said that while Foster greeted a mutual friend of theirs, he did not look at or speak to them.

“And my husband is a pastor,” Jones McCree added. “I just think Rick Kriseman will be more personable. I believe he will listen and do what he promises for St. Pete.”

4:01 p.m. – Sorry about the gap in updates. Would you believe today is the day I come down with the sniffles?

12:16 p.m. – The Times‘ Waveney Ann Moore writes “at polls south St. Pete’s Central Avenue, voters say they support Rick Kriseman.”  

11:44 a.m. – Local political consultant Steve Lapinski messages me his predictions: Rick Kriseman, 53%, Bill Foster 47%; Amy Foster 61%; Steve Galvin 39%.

11:25 a.m. – SaintPetersBlog contributor Linda Hersey just posted a nice, nice, nice story about an optimistic Karl Nurse thanking his supporters.

11:21 a.m. – Clearly, it’s a good day to be Dist. 8 candidate Amy Foster. Here’s the welcome sign from popular eatery Munch’s:

foster, amy - munchs

10:38 a.m. – SaintPetersBlog contributor Linda Hersey reports on the candidates’ last-minute push for votes:

There seemed to be more candidates ready to shake hands than voters this morning at Sunken Gardens, one of the precincts open to St. Petersburg voters for local elections Tuesday morning. 

Both mayoral candidates – incumbent Bill Foster and challenger Rick Kriseman – showed up, just minutes apart to meet people as they filed in to cast ballots. Local activist Lorraine Margeson, who is running against Council member Bill Kennedy, joined them. 

Margeson said that there seems to be a steady stream of voters at the polls so far – just not in high numbers. 

All three candidates said they cast their ballots first thing this morning before making the last-minute push for votes. 

The brief interlude this morning allowed for some humor and comic relief for the candidates for mayor, who have debated about two dozen times. 

“The hardest part of this election is that I like the guy I’m running against,” Kriseman said, as Foster stood next to him greeting residents. “We both go back a long way together,” said Kriseman, referring to their years serving on the City Council together. 

“Yeah, but he’s a lot older than I am,” Foster quipped. 

Really, the age difference is close – the candidates are just months apart. Foster is 50, and Kriseman is 51. 

9:51 a.m. – Karl Nurse via Facebook:

“Thank you to all who have helped me to have the opportunity to serve as a member of the St Petersburg City Council. I am looking forward to the chance to do much more for St. Pete pending the results of today’s election.”

9:42 a.m. – SaintPetersBlog contributor Ben Kirby offers his predictions on the outcome of today’s elections:

“Kriseman over Foster: 53-46 … Darden over Fries. Foster over Galvin. Nurse is the biggest re-elect margin — Kennedy gets to 60%.”

9:35 a.m. – Not at all awkward:  Rick Kriseman welcomes Bill Foster to the polls at Sunken Gardens. Photo courtesy of Max Steele.

foster, bill - at polls

9:18 a.m. – Tweet, tweet: @CesarDFernandez: In the last 72 hours, @Kriseman volunteers have made 7,966 phone calls and knocked on 1,719 doors.

9:16 a.m. – Matt Florell of St. Pete Polls offers these insights into today’s elections:

“Way back in February 2012 we ran our first poll on the Mayor’s race, Foster was at 49% and Kriseman was at 12%. We have conducted over 20 polls on the Mayor’s race since then, and we saw Rick Kriseman go from being in third place with only 18% just six months ago, to being favored to win against the incumbent Mayor in the last several polls we’ve conducted. Mayor Bill Foster, who just 18 months ago saw his approval rating peak at 61%, is now expected to be the first incumbent St. Petersburg “Strong Mayor” to lose a reelection bid.
 
“On the City Council side of this election, there have been less surprises. The only close races were in the Primary election, and even there the close races were for second place to get on the general election ballot, not for who was in the lead.”

9:12 a.m. – The Florida Democratic Party’s Max Steele is on the ground with Rick Kriseman. Just ran into them at Trip’s Diner. Steele says he prefers west-side eatery The Kopper Kitchen.

8:09 a.m. – Suncoast Police Benevolent Association and the Pinellas County Veterans caucus out working polls for District 4 candidate Darden Rice.

rice, darden - poll workers

8:04 a.m. – Our listing of where the candidates will be watching election results is now up here.

8:00 a.m. – No surprise: Here’s how I voted for Mayor of St. Petersburg (even though this is my ballot from the primary, you get the point):

ballot for kriseman

7:54 a.m. – Not a lot of news here, but the local TV wrap: WFLA 8 story here; Bay News 9 story here; WTSP 10 story here; Fox 13 story here

7:48 a.m. – Tweet, Tweet: @MLettelleir: On days like today the Times should just turn Bay Buzz into a @SaintPetersblog ticker

7:43 a.m. – How cool/frightening is this week’s cover of Creative Loafing with its mash-up of Rick Kriseman and Bill Foster?

creative loafing cover of mayors race

7:31 a.m. – Progress Florida has blasted out an email to its supporters in St. Pete:

This is one of the most important elections in Florida this year and, like many Florida elections, it is expected to come down to the wire.  That’s why it’s so important that you get out and vote and when you do, I hope you will cast your ballot for Rick Kriseman.

Rick Kriseman has been fighting for St. Pete residents’ best interests from City Hall to the State Capitol for well over a decade and he has done so with a firm grasp of the issues, a passion for improving our neighborhoods, and a leadership style our city desperately needs. 

From improving our neighborhood schools to safeguarding our environment, from advocating for quality jobs and consumer protections to championing equality, Rick Kriseman will be the type of mayor that a great city like St. Pete deserves.

7:11 a.m. – Gene Webb asks on St. Pete Patch, “Does Bill Foster even want to be Mayor?”

7:04 a.m. – Going back to Chris O’Donnell’s piece in the Trib, there is an interesting statistic: “An analysis of the mail ballots already received shows that roughly 3,300 more Democrats had cast ballots than Republican as of Monday.”

7:00 a.m. – Polls are now open.

6:51 a.m. – 10 News Noah Pransky asks, “We know who the Rays and Tampa Bay Times are rooting for….but will it even make a difference?”

6:45 a.m. – Tweet, Tweet: @steveschale: Good luck today to my friend Rick @Kriseman – He’s a good guy who loves his city & would be a great Mayor for St Pete

6:39 a.m. The Trib‘s Chris O’Donnell has his Election Day story up here. It includes this nugget: 

Eric Atwater, a South St. Petersburg store owner, said his vote will be going to Kriseman. 

“We gave him a chance,” Atwater said of Foster. “He had an opportunity and didn’t fulfill it.”

6:35 a.m. – According to a survey by St. Pete Polls commissioned by this blog, Rick Kriseman leads Bill Foster, 48% to 45% with seven percent of likely voters still undecided.

6:27 a.m. – Tweet, Tweet: @XopherFL: Saint Petersburg friends today is the day. If you haven’t already done so, make sure you go out and vote for my friend Rick @Kriseman!

5:11 a.m. – Mark Puente’s Election Day story here.

5:05 a.m. – Getting the first look at the final pre-election poll commissioned by this blog.  Here’s one tidbit: Among those voters who have already returned their ballot — and over 29,000 city voters have done just that — Kriseman leads 49% to 48%. This might not seem like much, but historically Republican candidates like Foster are able to bank enough of a lead in absentee and early voting to stave off an Election Day surge from Democratic candidates dependent on more day-of balloting. Going into the primary election, Foster held a sizeable lead in early voting over both Kriseman and Kathleen Ford.

4:48 a.m. – Even though Bill Foster regularly complained about the partisan nature of the St. Petersburg mayor’s race, he certainly did not stop the GOP from writing sizeable checks right up to the Oct. 31 donation cutoff.

Foster collected just over $45,000 in the October 12-31 reporting period, giving him a campaign total of $282,135, about $37,000 more than what it took to beat Kathleen Ford in 2009. Indeed, it is one of the best-financed campaigns in St. Petersburg history, second only to Kriseman, who raised over $331,000.

The Republican Party of Florida gave $13,850 on Oct. 15 and a $5,000 check on Halloween night — not including more than $10,000 of in-kind support the Foster received from the state party, for direct mail and phone calls.

In the lead up to Nov. 5, Foster spent $66,716 during the end of October—mostly on major media buys, advertising, radio spots, email blasts and the like — for a total of $251,544 in expenditures — leaving him with $30,591 cash-on-hand.

10:15 p.m. – Am already drafting my Winners & Losers list for Wednesday’s post-mortem. Any suggestions for either column?

9:41 p.m. – Bill Hurley’s Facebook status: “I am hoping to see three woman on our city council. What a change from the good ole boy days!”

8:23 p.m. – There are many reasons why Mayor Foster will likely lose tomorrow, but no reason stands out more than him losing the support of the African-American community, which he carried in his 2009 election. And why did he lose the black community? The answers to that question are also numerous, but this blog post from the Times’ Mark Puente explains a lot.

8:19 p.m. – As of Monday night, St. Petersburg voters have cast more than 29,000 ballots to select the next mayor and four open City Council seats. Of the 62,466 mail-in ballot requests, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office reports that 29,080 returned through Nov. 4. That makes it 46.6 percent of the vote-by-mail requests to date. Compared to over 55,000 votes cast in the last mayoral election in 2009, mail-in ballots could conceivably make the difference for either Mayor Bill Foster or challenger Rick Kriseman in the tight contest decided tomorrow.

7:51 p.m. — Did anyone else notice this nugget from WFLA? “In a Survey USA Election Poll, Kriseman is poised to defeat Foster.  The poll conducted exclusively for WFLA-TV, shows Kriseman leading 58% to 39%. He is backed by African Americans, Democrats and liberals. Foster leads among Republicans and conservatives. 

 5:31 p.m. – The Tampa Bay Times offered one more editorial urging its reader to vote for Rick Kriseman.

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.