Rick Kriseman’s campaign to be the next Mayor of Saint Petersburg is off to a steady, if not strong, start.
Last week, the former Democratic State Representative unveiled the endorsements of four well-regarded political figures: former CFO Alex Sink, former State Senator Paula Dockery, Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, and Largo Mayor Pat Gerard.
While Sink and Dockery have more star power, it was Latvala’s endorsement which turned the most heads.
“Rick stands up for what he believes in,” Latvala said when asked to explain her decision to cross party lines and support Kriseman over fellow Republican Bill Foster. “The decisions that we make at the local level are non-partisan. It’s about doing what’s right for the community and that’s what I’ve seen in Rick.”
Latvala’s endorsement matters, if for no other reason than it generated earned media for Kriseman’s campaign. It also, as I first said in this Tampa Trib article about the mayoral race, “reinforces the idea that Foster doesn’t get along very well with the other leaders in Pinellas County and Tampa Bay.”
What about the other endorsements Kriseman received last week, do they matter?
Well, with all due respect to my fellow Tiger Bay board member Pat Gerard, the support of the Mayor of Largo doesn’t carry much weight in St. Pete. She is one of the few elected Democrats in Pinellas County, but Kriseman doesn’t need much more help convincing voters he’s a liberal Democrat.
As for Alex Sink’s support of Kriseman, this is almost pro forma. She was, and may be again, the standard bearer for the Democratic party in 2010. Again, Kriseman doesn’t need to do much more to impress upon folks that he was and is a loyal Democrat.
Paula Dockery’s endorsement of Kriseman is an interesting one. I’m not sure how much the support of a former State Senator from Polk County matters at first glance, but if Kriseman could convince Dockery to campaign for him, that would make her endorsement stand out.
However, when you combine Dockery’s endorsement with Latvala’s, a narrative begins to develop that Kriseman would be smart to employ. That narrative is about disaffected former and current Republicans uncomfortable with the direction of the party.
Bill Foster has not been an ideologue while in office, but he is, at his heart, a staunch conservative. Foster needs to keep Republicans embodied by Dockery and Latvala (and aren’t they a lot like Leslie Curran?) in his camp if he wants to win this November.
If Latvala’s support of Kriseman is an indication of moderate Republicans abandoning Foster, he could be in for a long campaign.