Amid continuing speculation that he would announce his intentions for 2014, former Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed Rick Kriseman this morning in the increasingly partisan battle that is the St. Petersburg mayoral election.
Once again, Crist sidestepped questions about his intentions to run next year.
“I’m focused on the mayor’s race,” said Crist, shrugging off repeated questions about his plans. “That is where my heart and soul is today, and will be for the next 28 days.”
“I’m going to do everything I can to help Rick Kriseman become mayor,” he added, not specifying just what that would be.
“I’m going to vote,” Crist said, encouraging the crowd to “vote, vote, vote Kriseman.”
Crist announced his support of Kriseman in front of an audience of about 40 Democratic Party faithful, civic leaders and the press, including state Rep. Darryl Rouson, City Council member Leslie Curran, Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, community activist Goliath Davis and others.
The former governor and newly minted Democrat praised Kriseman and his leadership, talking about how they got to know each other when working together in Tallahassee. Crist was elected governor 2006, the same year the former state representative went to the House.
“My friend Rick is a passionate man,” Crist said. “It’s important to me, it’s my hometown. I know he will be a great mayor.”
Calling Kriseman a “tireless advocate for education and the environment,” Crist cited his work in the Legislature against offshore drilling as one the main inspiration for his support.
“This is a race about people who love the City of St. Petersburg,” Kriseman said, “from city council members to the governor. I don’t know anyone who loves the city more than Charlie Crist.”
When the subject turned to the Tampa Bay Rays, and the drive to keep them in St. Petersburg, Kriseman said his main role as mayor is to protect the taxpayers of the city. But he said he will “do anything” to keep the Rays in the city.
“It comes from strong leadership,” he said. “We haven’t seen the strong leadership from the city. We’re going to change that.”
Although he carefully “analyzed” the race, in the decision to come out in favor of Kriseman, Crist stopped short of condemning incumbent Mayor Bill Foster.
“I’m here to support my friend, “Crist said. “I’m not here to run anyone down.”