In case you didn’t know, both Rick Kriseman and Bill Foster are attorneys.
One of the things you must master as an attorney is the ability to close your argument. What is the summation of what you have offered? How do you wrap it up?
There are now less than two weeks left until Election Day in St. Petersburg. We’ve seen Mayor Foster continue to flail from event to embarrassing event.
What is Rick Kriseman’s case to the people of St. Petersburg in these last days before they go to the polls? I think Rick Kriseman’s candidacy makes two arguments.
First is the campaign itself. I’ll write more about this later, but we are ushering in a new era of professionalized campaigns in St. Petersburg, and this area generally. Never was this more evident that in the September piece in the Times highlighting Foster campaign manager (and personal friend) Niel Allen, and Kriseman’s campaign manager (and campaign professional) Cesar Fernandez.
There will be those who lament the way things used to be in St. Petersburg politics — friendlier, less partisan, less professional. Those days are over, and if you’re looking for someone to blame, blame the guy sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (he’s getting blamed for everything else these days).
The Obama organizing machine has set the template for how to run campaigns nationally as well as locally, and if they are victorious in a little less than two weeks, Kriseman and Fernandez will have the Obama model to thank in large part. Kriseman has been a successful fundraising machine, and has offered a campaign trail discipline that has paid off in poll leads and a strong endorsement from the Times.
Welcome to the new model of campaigning in St. Petersburg.
Kriseman, if elected, will be the first true progressive mayor of St. Petersburg. I don’t mean that in a necessarily political way (though there is validity in that point as well). I will admit that it bothers me that Rick has been constantly dinged for not being specific enough on the trail. I’m not sure that’s a fair argument. He offered a detailed policy speech not long ago, and even his website has consistently featured a more detailed vision than anything ever offered by the mayor.
But perhaps here, I need to say something practical, tangible. Something real.
How about this? If the Rays leave the Trop — and, unless you’re living a very sad, sad little bubble, with this latest attendance record, they are — Rick will work to develop a new business area that is entirely off the grid. Think about that: a whole area of shops, maybe apartments or condos, businesses… all of it creating and using its own energy. Solar, most likely, but other sources, too.
Speaking of solar, did you know that solar industry is outpacing other businesses in terms of growth? Rick does. Why wouldn’t the Sunshine City be the national leader in solar usage and production?
Solar panels and reduced consumption of traditional energy sources.
Those are very specific, very real changes you would see come out of a City Hall with a Mayor Kriseman at the helm. They would literally change the way St. Petersburg looks and feels. For whatever it’s worth, I think the idea that Rick hasn’t been specific enough is nonsense. The voters clearly think he has, which is why they continue to donate to his campaign and put him ahead in the polls.
I think Rick is talking about the kinds of ideas people want to hear about.
Finally, I think they web video they released today encapsulates what the Mayorship of Rick Kriseman might feel like. It is nearly two minutes before Rick Kriseman’s name is even mentioned. That’s not an accident. There is a very real sense from Rick and from his campaign that this was never about Rick — this was about honoring the rich past of the City of St. Petersburg, and imaging a future that is better for us, better for our children and grandchildren.
St. Petersburg is on the cusp, and if Rick continues to make the case that he is something entirely new, I suspect voters are going to give him the chance to show exactly what that means.
By the way, the closing arguments actually began a few weeks ago. As of one full week ago, 13,052 vote-by-mail ballots had already been returned. Hard to say how many more will come in over the next dozen or so days. But it’s a pretty safe bet to say that the case, one way or the other, has already been made to about 18,000 residents in St. Petersburg.