Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Karl Nurse vs. The Tomato Cans

in The Bay and the 'Burg by
Last Sunday, Bill Safire wrote in his “On Language” column about the use of “Straw Man” in political speechifying, in which you set someone up just to knock them down. Safire uses President Obama as an example when he says “I know some folks in Washington and on Wall Street are saying we should just focus on their problems.” Some folks, like those who are never named but are always wrongheaded extremists.

Straw Men lurk everywhere in St. Petersburg politics. Rick Baker and his allies in City Hall often speak of ‘those who would turn back the clock’ on the progress his administration believes it has made. Those who would turn back the clock is, without mentioning her name, Kathleen Ford.

I can’t figure out if Karl Nurse is running against a collection of Straw Men or a bunch of Tomato Cans. Some of Nurse’s supporters, especially those in the environmental community, make it out as though if Nurse doesn’t win, the city will revert back to the days when there was a utility plant on the downtown’s waterfront.

There is just a tad too much arrogance in basing an entire campaign on the quote that Karl Nurse “is the hardest working man in local government.” What does that say about the work done by police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers? I know dealing with Leslie Curran can be a bitch, but sitting on City Council is not hard work.

I guess Karl Nurse is running against a bunch of Tomato Cans — and he couldn’t ask for a better situation. He gets to run against opponents who have no chance of beating him, yet he’ll go thru all of the motions, hoping to boost his profile. He gets to raise a ton of money, because what better bet is there in local politics than Karl Nurse being re-elected. Everyone, from old enemies like Rick Baker to new friends in the African American community, have endorsed him.

And why not? Karl Nurse is the most progressive voice on an otherwise provincial City Council, a body of government which is beginning to make the town elders in Footloose look open-minded. Wengay Newton, Bill Dudley, Herb Polson, and to some extent, Leslie Curran all seem to scowl more and more.

The city needs Karl Nurse on City Council. I’ll vote for him. But Karl Nurse the Councilman is not the same as Karl Nurse the candidate. It’s uncomfortable watching Nurse campaign when we know that’s the last thing he wants to do, so running a campaign that is so eager, especially against a bunch of Tomato Cans, is all the more discomforting.

Nurse should be running a Front Porch campaign, quietly going about his business knowing that he will win with 60% of the vote no matter what he does.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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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