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New poll shows Rick Kriseman is popular, but could lose to Rick Baker in 2017

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Two-and-a-half years into his mayoralty, voters in St. Petersburg are strongly supportive of Rick Kriseman.

Yet a new poll suggests that his re-election isn’t guaranteed, especially if former Mayor Rick Baker challenges him in 2017.

A St. Pete Polls survey conducted on Tuesday of 600 registered voters in the ‘Burg shows that Baker gets 37 percent support, with Kriseman at 36 percent, a statistical tie. An additional 27 percent are undecided.

Baker was a popular mayor of St. Petersburg from 2001-2009 before leaving office. Bill Foster succeeded him in 2009, but lost decisively to Kriseman in November of 2013. Baker has been mentioned for several different political positions since he left City Hall, but has chosen to remain in the private sector. He has not said whether he has any interest in challenging Kriseman next year.

The new survey shows that nearly half the electorate — 49 percent — approve of Kriseman’s performance, with 30 percent disapproving. An additional 20 percent were unsure.

As St. Pete continues its renaissance that began toward the end of the Baker era, Kriseman is reaping the benefits of the city’s success. A majority, 52 percent, say the city is going in the right direction, while 33 percent say it’s going in the wrong direction. Another 15 percent weren’t sure.

The City Council also gets high marks, though not as high as the mayor. When asked if they are doing a good job, 42 percent of those surveyed say they are, while 36 percent disagree. Another 23 percent are unsure.

One issue where the public is not pleased with the city is in the handling of the sewage system’s overflow problems. Heavy rains in early June forced St. Petersburg to pump nearly 10 million gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay. Storms during the summer of 2015 caused over 31 million gallons of treated and partially treated sewage to be spilled or dumped.

When asked how the city has coped with the situation, 55 percent say not very well. The rest of the public was divided on their reaction, with 23 percent supporting how the city has dealt with the storms, while another 23 percent were unsure.

Although the Tampa Bay Rays finally were allowed by city officials to negotiate with Hillsborough County officials about possibly relocating a new baseball park in that region earlier this year, Kriseman says that the current site where Tropicana Field sits remains the best location for a club to prosper in the future.

The poll shows that the public agrees with that attitude, with 43 percent supporting the idea of a new park built next to the current site. Another 34 percent say that want to make sure the park remains in Pinellas County. Not surprisingly, only 10 percent say the team playing their games in Hillsborough County. Another 13 percent were unsure.

This poll of 620 registered voters in St. Petersburg was conducted on June 28. The survey has a 3.9 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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