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Harsh reaction to St. Petersburg Times’ recommendation of Bill Foster for Mayor from Tampa Bay’s progressive community

in The Bay and the 'Burg by
Call it The Endorsement Heard ‘Round The ‘Burg.

In what some St. Pete insiders view as pure Machiavellian journalism, if not a complete sell-out of its core beliefs, The St. Petersburg Times, one of the nation’s best liberal newspapers endorsed, err…”recommended” is the preferred term, Bill Foster, an anti-evolution, anti-gay candidate. As Wayne Garcia of Creative Loafing writes:

Actually, the Foster recommendation should come as no surprise to Times’ readers who observed the editorial board’s changing tone ever since Tim Nickens took over as Editor of Editorials. Remember, this is the same editorial board that recommended ultra-conservative Nancy Bostock over Democrat Rene Flowers for the Pinellas County Commission.

The decision to recommend Foster did not come easily to the editorial board. According to a reliable source familiar with the working of the Times‘ editorial board, the Foster recommendation is not sitting well with at least one member of the Editorial Board. Speculation leads me to believe this disgruntled member is uber-liberal Robyn Blumner.

There are also questions as to whether Mayor Rick Baker influenced the Ed Board’s decision-making. Virulently opposed to the possibility of Kathleen Ford succeeding him, Baker does not want residents splitting their votes between Foster and Scott Wagman. Reportedly, Baker urged Deputy Editor of Editorials Joni James to not let the Ed Board make up its mind until the results of a Baker-supported poll by the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership were released.

That poll made it clear that not only was Ford leading the race, but that Wagman’s campaign was in trouble. This left the Times, as opposed to Ford’s candidacy as Baker is, with a dilemma: endorse Wagman and face the possibility of Ford winning the election or throw the newspaper’s support to Foster and use him as a stalking horse for their interests.

The decision to recommend Foster has left progressive interests shocked by the apparent betrayal of the Times‘ core values, especially on critical issues like gay rights, of which Foster has been an opponent.

In the wake of the Foster recommendation, gay rights interests such as Equality Florida, have begun to mobilize.

Some political activists may be too distraught to push through to Election Day. Veronika Slep, leader of Pinellas’ Young Democrats, probably said it best, posting on her Facebook page that the St. Petersburg Times was “officially crazy.”

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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