Already a race to the bottom among three generally un-liked candidates, the upcoming St. Petersburg mayoral election is being primarily shaped by two factors.
The first, of course, is the debate over “The Lens” and the future of the St. Petersburg Pier.
The second factor finds its origins in a May 6 story by Tampa Bay Times reporter Mark Puente, in which former police chief Goliath Davis declared that, in the upcoming election, he would be supporting “anybody but Foster.” With this declaration, Davis unofficially proclaimed that St. Pete’s historically monolithic black vote was in play for the first time in decades. And while the turnout created by any Pier referendum will have more impact on the election results than any other factor, the free agency of the black vote could be an important, albeit secondary factor.
That Davis is not supporting Foster comes as a surprise to no one who followed the workings of City Hall. Foster wanted to sh*tcan Davis from the moment he was sworn in, but could not without alienating the black leaders who proved to be the deciding factor in Foster’s (some say come-from-behind) victory over Kathleen Ford in 2009.
Foster rightly fired Davis after he did not attend the funerals of St. Petersburg Police’s Sgt. Thomas Batiniger and Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz in Feburary 2011. He was also a no-show at the funeral for Officer David Crawford. All three were killed in the line of duty.
Davis did attend the funeral of Hydra Lacy, who shot Yaslowitz and Batiniger.
After questions arose about Davis’ absence from Crawford’ funeral, he was let go as Senior Administrator of Community Enrichment. In a release, Foster relieved Davis of his duties citing “a loss of confidence.”
Since his firing, Davis has been laying in the weeds, waiting to strike back at Foster. Davis believes he has done this by publicly shifting his support from Foster to Ford, who in 2009 labeled Davis St. Petersburg’s HNIC — Head Negro In Charge.
Davis may indeed get his revenge, but only if the rest of the black community believes Ford is no longer the divisive figure she has been for the better part of two decades.
To that end, the next question that needs to be asked of Ford is, if she had been mayor, would she have fired Davis for not attending the funerals of the three police officers?
If Ford said she would have, then to Davis there should be little difference between her and Foster.
If Ford said she would not have, she risks losing the angry white vote which comprises much of her base.
Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.