Morning must-read: Rick Kriseman’s $25,000 question

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As every Pinellas politico knows by now, Rep. Rick Kriseman is not running for re-election. But it sounds like he wants to run for Mayor of St. Petersburg.

“The mayor had his share of challenges,” said Kriseman, who served with now Mayor Bill Foster on the City Council from 2000 to 2005. “I would do it differently, just as he would do it differently if he served in the state House.”

Conventional wisdom dictates that while Kriseman may put out feelers about running for Mayor, he would not officially declare his candidacy until after November 2012 or maybe even next year.

The only problem with that is the $25,000-plus Kriseman has raised so far for his tabled re-election to the State House.

That money, entirely transferable, to a municipal campaign so long as Kriseman gives his donors the ability to ask for their money back, would be a helluva kick-start for a Democratic candidate running in a city not exactly known for its deep-pocketed political donors.

So, Kriseman is faced with a choice; he can a) spend the money between now and qualifying in June; b) return pro rata the money to his donors c) donate the funds to charity or d) tranfer the money to another campaign account.

Certainly, Kriseman can spend the money very easily.  For example, he could pay Kevin King $25,000 for consulting and no one would blink an eye.

Kriseman could do the very noble thing and write $1,000 checks to 25 local organizations. He’d be a hero, for sure. But he’d be handicapping his mayoral ambitions.

There’s really no upside to returning the money to his donors because, if he runs for Mayor, he’s just going to turn around and ask them to donate again. Why go through that headache?

Or Kriseman could keep the twenty-five large for his presumed mayoral campaign.

But…and here’s the kicker…if Kriseman wants to run for Mayor, he must designate the new office he intends to run for before the end of the qualifying period (the first week of June) for the State House, according to 106.021(1)(a) of the Florida Statutes, which reads:

If a candidate changes the designated office for which he or she is a candidate, the candidate must notify all contributors in writing of the intent to seek a different office and offer to return pro rata, upon their request, those contributions given in support of the original office sought. This notification shall be given within 15 days after the filing of the change of designation and shall include a standard form developed by the Division of Elections for requesting the return of contributions.

The long and short of Kriseman’s dilemma is this: Before qualifying, Kriseman must either dispose or donate the $25,000-plus currently sitting in his campaign account or he must open a new account, transfer the money he has raised and, in doing so, let the world know he is running for Mayor.

Think of it as Rick Kriseman’s twenty-five thousand dollar question.

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.