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Winners & losers coming out of St. Petersburg’s City Council elections

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tuesday’s slate of elections in St. Petersburg certainly provided a list of winners and losers, and I’m not just talking about the candidates. Here’s my list of the real winners and losers coming out of Tuesday’s elections. Let me know if I missed anyone.


Ed Montanari – Lost in the three City Council races that were on the ballot Tuesday is the one that wasn’t: the race for District 2, which Montanari won uncontested. As the only elected Republican in City Hall, the airline pilot and longtime civic leader is the lone voice for a huge swath of residents.

Rick Kriseman – With LWB’s victory, he has another ally on City Council and the fifth vote for his deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The mayor also deserves credit for not appearing to put too heavy a thumb on the scale for his preferred candidate.

Karl Nurse and Darden Rice – The two most progressive members of the City Council came in heavy for Lisa Wheeler-Brown and their bet paid off. Now they have another ideological ally on a council that should tilt heavy to the left. Nurse was especially vocal in his defense of LWB’s many flaws.

Nick Hansen – Montanari’s win is another Pinellas victory for the Republican consultant who counts David Jolly and Jeff Brandes as his clients.

Meagan Salisbury – Drowned out by the mudslinging in the LWB-Newton race is the fact that Wheeler-Brown ran a pretty decent campaign, so kudos to her manager. Expect to see Salisbury hired up by one of the big-budget congressional or state legislative campaigns.

Bill Edwards – The force behind Sundial and the Mahaffey Theater was, as only this website reported, also the force behind a political committee aligned with Wheeler-Brown’s campaign.

St. Pete’s LGBT community – When Steve Kornell first ran for City Council, many feared his being gay would be an issue in his campaign. In 2013, when two more members of LGBT community were elected to council, there was concern that St. Pete was becoming the new Key West. Nowadays, a LGBT’er can get re-elected and their sexual orientation doesn’t even come up. That’s real progress.

Ruth’s List – The organization dedicated to building a progressive Florida by recruiting and assisting pro-choice Democratic women aggressively supported LWB.

Charlie Frago, Janelle Irwin – The Tampa Bay Times reporter as well as our intrepid writer competed every day to mine news out of what was the quietest election cycle in St. Pete since it went to a strong mayor form of government. It’s easy – and exciting – to cover Bill Foster vs. Kathleen Ford vs. Rick Kriseman, it’s another to slog through yet another City Council candidate forum. The Tribune’s Chris O’Donnell, Creative Loafing’s Kate Bradshaw, and blogger Gene Webb also offered lively coverage.

St. Petersburg’s West Side – It has one of its own in the mayor’s office and as chairman of the City Council. If ever the forgotten West Side of St. Pete is going to get the attention it deserves from City Hall, now is the time.

Mixed bag

Tom Alte – I don’t think I’ve ever met Alte, so I don’t know much about him, but LWB’s political consultant seems to be collecting as much negative press as he is campaign wins. Is that just the price of victory?

Susan McGrath – The chairwoman of the Pinellas Democratic Party wants credit for three Democrats winning Tuesday. But two of them were incumbents and LWB taking over for Wengay Newton‘s seat is not a net gain. Yes, McGrath was all in for Wheeler-Brown, but that turned off as many party activists as it did endear them. She better hope Wengay Newton doesn’t win his bid to the state House or she is going to have a big problem in her back yard.

The Tampa Bay Rays – As someone who closely follows the intersection of politics and sports, let me say this: There may not be a professional sports franchise in Florida more politically tone deaf than this baseball club. Sure, there is now a fifth vote on Council for Rick Kriseman’s deal for the team to look beyond St. Pete for a new stadium, but the Rays are going to find out very quickly how narrow their options really are. Meanwhile, they will use up what may be the last of the good will from St. Pete residents the club has in reserve.

Tampa Bay Times editorial board – Tim Nickens and Co. could have got what it wanted – LWB’s election and a fifth vote for the Kriseman-Rays deal – without its preposterous endorsement of Phillip Garrett over Steve Kornell.

SaintPetersBlog – I donated $500 to Wheeler-Brown after being so impressed with her story of redemption, but later ended up supporting Newton because of LWB’s campaign finance shenanigans. And this was as checked-out from local politics as I have been since I lived in New York. Still, this site’s coverage of the election cycle was more comprehensive – and interesting – than any other media outlet.


Bob Buckhorn – Hizzoner should be in the Winners’ column, right? After all, Tampa is one step closer to moving across the Bay into the Town That Jeff Vinik Rebuilt. But now the Rays are ONE STEP CLOSER to moving across the Bay and Buckhorn and Tampa simply do not have money to build the team a new stadium. Worse for Buckhorn is if he tries to build the Rays a new home with public dollars. No issue will be more radioactive in a 2018 race for governor than millions for billionaires.

Wengay Newton – No matter what the Tampa Bay Times writes, Will Newton did not lose because of his stance on the future of baseball in the region. He lost because his brother, Wengay, for most of his time on Council has been seen as a troublemaker. Not Kathleen Ford-level of troublemaker, but a troublemaker nevertheless. If Wengay had conducted himself the first six years he was on Council in the same manner he has the past 18 months, his brother may have won.

Steve Lapinski – Welcome to how the other half lives, Mr. Lapinski. Newton’s political consultant had not lost a local race since 2010 but a flawed candidate and some questionable negative mailers put an end to his winning streak. Undoubtedly, he’ll just get to work on a new one.

Kurt Donley – Who the hell really knows what went down between Donley and LWB that he turned on his former ally. But Donley’s 15 minutes of fame in city politics are probably at an end. P.S. The fellas over at really don’t like you, Kurt.

Nick Janovsky – The hyperactive political consultant who helped launch LWB’s campaign, but ended up parting ways with her was an outspoken critic. Elections have consequences and one of them may be Janovsky having a hard time finding work in South Pinellas where he has had two rocky breakups with candidates in the past year.

St. Pete’s firefighters – Without a Newton on City Council to protect its union’s interests, the dedicated men and women of the St. Petersburg Fire Department could be in for a rough four years. Especially after how hard they worked to try to win a race for one of their own.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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