It may come as little surprise to St. Petersburg voters, but the once non-partisan mayor’s race is getting nastier as November 5 approaches.
But the biggest spenders on television ads during the campaign is not a candidate — incumbent Mayor Bill Foster or former state Rep. Rick Kriseman — but an electioneering committee backed by the Republican Party of Florida.
Accountability In Government, a Tallahassee-based organization, spent more than $70,000 on over 3,200 negative ads aimed at Kriseman, according to Christopher O’Donnell in the Tampa Tribune. State records show that Accountability In Government received $96,000 from the state GOP.
Last-minute negative advertising is more than either candidate has spent on television spots throughout the primary and general elections. Foster bought $65,000 in TV ads since July, and Kriseman bought $61,000.
A Republican win Tuesday could be the momentum they need to strengthen the GOP in the Interstate 4 corridor, writes O’Donnell, including the Pinellas County race to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
Foster’s success could also help diminish the effects of Democrat Amanda Murphy’s Pasco County House District 36 victory over a well-financed Bill Gunter last month.
The Republican Party of Florida originally stayed away out of the St. Petersburg municipal elections, until state Sen. Jack Latvala called for the party to help Foster, responding to Kriseman receiving donations from the Florida Democratic Party, which now totals about $40,000.
Since then, the GOP stepped up with campaign cash, capped by a $13,000 check to Foster in October.
Most Republicans say Foster had little choice but to accept party money.
“The real question is why did Kriseman take a nonpartisan race and make it partisan,” Michael Guju, chair of the Pinellas County Republicans, told the Tribune. The county party also donated to Foster.