Tampa Bay Times takes a ham-handed swipe in St. Petersburg mayor’s race

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Here’s a campaign tip: you know you’re the front-runner when the headline fails to mention your opponent.

If there is any truth to this, the campaign team at the Kriseman for Mayor headquarters must be elated. Today, the headline over the Adam Smith article at the Tampa Bay Times says: “Kriseman needs a detailed vision to sell”.

Here’s another tip: when the press criticizes you for not being “detailed” enough, they are simply acting out on a need to criticize you because you’re in front. Never mind if there is nothing real to criticize you about. The criticism comes on the heels of a couple of really good weeks for Kriseman.

At the end of last month, Kriseman finished the primary just under two points behind incumbent Bill Foster. By the end of election night, people had already forgotten about Kathleen Ford, who only weeks earlier had been the front-runner herself.

Earlier this month, Kriseman earned the support of most of the current members of the St. Petersburg City Council, in addition to the bi-partisan support he already enjoyed.

Early this week, St. Pete Polls showed via this blog that Kriseman had opened a ten-point lead over Foster. So contentious was this news for Foster that he rebutted it directly in a forum.

Towards the middle of the week, the Kriseman campaign announced it had raised an astonishing $50,000 in just seventeen days.

Today, adjacent to Smith’s reporting is a piece from his political colleague Mark Puente showing the results of a Times/Bay News 9 poll with a one-point lead for Kriseman.  

All of this clearly means that Kriseman needs “a detailed vision to sell.”

Smith — one of the finest political reporters in the state, and probably in the nation — rebuts himself a little bit at the outset:  

Clearly St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has a serious deficit in personal appeal.

That more than 7 in 10 voters in our new poll think St. Petersburg is headed in the right direction and Mayor Foster is still in a dead heat for re-election is an extraordinary statement about Foster’s weak image and how little credit voters give him for positive trends in the city.

People love their city. They don’t like Bill Foster… and so they are supporting Kriseman, as is evidenced in the polling, the fundraising, and the leadership backing him.

Not incidentally, it is nice that Smith managed to solicit a comment from Bea Griswold. She is a former member of the St. Petersburg City Council. But she has not been a council member for years. The relevance of endorsements of sitting council members is frequently open for debate — I’m not sure I understand how significant the comments of Ms. Griswold really are in this instance.

It is here where Smith unfortunately leads us all a bit astray:

Kriseman supporters like to note that most of the current council members are supporting Kriseman over the incumbent mayor.

But it’s also worth noting that among the council members like Griswold who served alongside both Kriseman and Foster, most are backing Foster or remaining officially neutral (while sounding more enthusiastic about Foster).

“Rick’s a nice guy, and I don’t think he’d do any harm as mayor, but he’s never shown any leadership,” said former council member Earnest Williams.

Frank Peterman served with Kriseman on the council and as a fellow Democrat in the Florida House. He likes Kriseman and calls him smart and politically savvy. He’s voting for Foster.

Peterman had a long, interesting, and towards the end, unfortunate career in public service, but it should be noted that he did not serve on City Council with Rick Kriseman.  Furthermore, Peterman’s remarks about race are simply untrue. According to St. Pete Polls, Kriseman received 40% of the African American vote, while Foster pulled 28.9%. The Times/Bay News 9 poll shows Kriseman and Foster in a dead heat among African American voters — hardly indicative of someone who waited “until the 11th hour to come and engage with the African-American community”.

Apparently Smith would like to see a “multi-point agenda,” saying that Kriseman hasn’t presented one.

He then goes on to list… at least part of the multi-point agenda of the Kriseman campaign:

“…beef up neighborhood programs…”

“…more aggressive grant hunting…” (Foster lost his top grant-finder in Wayne Finley earlier this year.)

“…more service-learning in schools…”

“…would change the way cops are assigned…”

“…would negotiate with the Rays more effectively…”

The Kriseman Campaign website — not behind a paywall, ahem — features an entire tab entitled… “Vision.” Maybe it doesn’t have enough detail for Smith — but it has enough for the leaders, voters, and supporters of Kriseman. And it darn sure has more than Bill Foster’s