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Rick Kriseman raises $51K in March, sounds ready for a challenge from Rick Baker

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman raised more than $51,000 for his re-election effort, his campaign announced Sunday night.

With that haul, Kriseman has now raised more than $292,000 for his bid for a second term.

And, perhaps just as important, it sounds like he’s preparing to use those funds to fend off a challenge from former Mayor Rick Baker.

Although Baker hasn’t officially announced that he will run again for the job that he held from 2001-2010, Kriseman is already painting him as out of touch with the sentiments of city, more than seven years after he left office.

“St. Petersburg is a progressive city, a welcoming city,” he said while speaking to a crowd of Democrats who gathered this weekend in his city for a retreat at the Hilton Carillon Park Hotel.

“I’ve called us a shelter from harmful federal policies,” he said, referring to his controversial comment declaring St. Petersburg was a “sanctuary” from Trump administration threatened policies like withholding money from cities who don’t cooperate in detaining undocumented immigrants.

Although the mayor’s office race is technically a nonpartisan race, Kriseman is a proud Democrat and Baker a staunch Republican. And the current Mayor wants the people of St. Petersburg to know the difference.

“I’m likely to face my own challenge this year,” he told the audience, “from a former mayor who campaigned for John McCain and called Sarah Palin ‘a great pick for Vice-President.'”

As the crowd guffawed, Kriseman paused for a moment. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

But he wasn’t done with the mockery just yet.

“He then served as campaign manager for Herman Cain’s (Florida) campaign and also served as Mitt Romney’s advisor on urban policy, and we all know how well Mitt did in urban areas,” the mayor continued, before acknowledging that it’s not a given that he’ll ride easily to re-election.

“Regardless of that, I may have my work cut out for me,” he acknowledged. “I will need your support.”

In fact, surveys conducted bSt. Pete Polls in late 2016 and early this year show Baker leading Kriseman if the two were to face each other.

If Baker does pull the trigger and run against Kriseman, he’s not expected to do announce for another month, after residents vote on a ballot measure that would give the Tampa Bay Rowdies an extended lease at Al Lang Field. The vote is required for the soccer franchise  to expand the seating area in the event that they are chosen to play in Major League Soccer (MLS). Baker is leading that public campaign, meeting with neighborhood groups throughout the city as the point man for Rowdies owner/businessman Bill Edwards company.

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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