Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay — The “Don’t forget about them” edition

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

The conclusion of the 2016 Legislative Session will happen sometime this week. Florida’s presidential preference primary is in seven days. With those twin events, it would be easy to overlook the many developments shaping up in Tampa Bay politics.

To catch you up on some of the developments taking place in local elections, here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay.

The reserving of two domain names — BakerforCongress.com and RickBakerforCongress.com — prompted the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith to wonder again if the former St. Petersburg Mayor will run in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. I agree with Smith that it seems more and more likely that Rick Baker will run. I also believe Baker, despite his best intentions, will eventually lose to Charlie Crist in this Democrat-leaning seat.

Yes, Baker can appeal to some African-Americans in South St. Petersburg, but as one political operative who works extensively in the black community explained to me after Baker met with several prominent black ministers, “Baker may win over a few ministers, but he won’t get their congregations.”

Of course, Baker will tell you (and certainly me) differently. He’ll tell you how his ally, former St. Pete Police Chief Goliath Davis, as well as several other gatekeepers to the African-American community, will deliver enough ticket-splitting ballots that Baker will narrowly edge out Crist.

Maybe.

One thing I do know is it would be very odd to see Baker on the same ticket as Donald Trump. I cannot think of two more different Republicans. Maybe Baker should continue to wait to see who is at the top of the ticket before committing to a run.

___

The Florida Democratic Party and state Senate Majority Leader-to-be Oscar Braynon are desperate to find a candidate to run against Republican Dana Young in the newly redrawn Senate District 18. Popular state Rep. Janet Cruz has already passed on running for the seat. We hear that trial attorney John Bales also demurred after it was explained to him that he’d need to kick in at least $1 million of his own money just to be competitive. Now it’s being reported that Tampa attorney and prominent Democratic fundraiser Tom Scarritt is being encouraged to run for the seat.

There’s no doubting Scarritt’s connections, but for Braynon and other Florida Democrats mounting a viable campaign for this seat is a matter of comparative advantage. As Scott Powers of Florida Politics reported last week, the Republicans hold a near 10-to-1 advantage over Democrats in money available for state Senate campaigns. With at least three other better pickup opportunities for the D’s, it would be a much more efficient use of their resources to focus on sending Rod Smith back to Tallahassee in Senate District 8 and winning the seats in South Florida which will be up for grabs.

Winning the two competitive state Senate seats in Tampa Bay is how the Democrats could regain control of the Senate, but pouring money into difficult races against Young and Jeff Brandes could jeopardize their chances of picking up much more winnable seats.

___

Please tell me the rumors of Darden Rice thinking about challenging Republican Jeff Brandes are just that, rumors. Rice is so good on the St. Petersburg City Council; it would be a shame to lose her there.

___

With Young making the jump to the Florida Senate, the dominoes have already started falling in her House seat, as several candidates weigh their options in HD 60. Engineer Jackie Toledo is in. We’ve previously reported that Nancy Watkins is out. Rebecca Smith is in and will be formidable. La Gaceta’s Patrick Manteiga reports David Singer is contemplating a run.

Today we can report a bit of disappointing news: Mike Griffin, the rising star with the golden resume, tells FloridaPolitics.com he will not be running in 2016. Griffin had been mentioned as a possible candidate — a strong one — in HD 60. It’s likely his many civic obligations prevent him from a mounting a full-fledged campaign. Griffin staying put is a loss for Tallahassee, but a gain for Tampa.

___

Former St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton, now running to replace Darryl Rouson in House District 70, is doing such a good job at not impressing interest group and possible contributors that talk of Rouson’s wife, Angela, entering the race is spiking again. Mrs. Rouson’s successful organizing of this year’s MLK Leadership Awards Breakfast, where her leadership skills and knack for diplomacy, were on full display.

We’ve said this many times before, but we will say it again, “Run, Angela, run.”

___

Appointed to the St. Petersburg City Council last decade, it seems as if Karl Nurse has been a presence at City Hall forever. But the end of the tunnel is finally in sight for Nurse, as he terms out the Council in 2017. The first whispers about who might fill his pretty big shoes are beginning to surface. But it’s really not who will replace Nurse that is the question, it’s whether his successor will be African-American or not? Nurse represents a district with a near even split among black and white voters, and many in the A-A community would like to see the seat held by a candidate of color. Of course, if so many minority candidates run, a white candidate — particularly one who can consolidate the tonier neighborhoods of Coquina Key — could emerge from the primary and then cruise to victory in a lily-white citywide election.

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.