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Winners & Losers from yesterday’s primary

in The Bay and the 'Burg by
Forget about Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster winning, there were plenty of other Winners and Losers who emerged from the St. Petersburg Mayoral Primary. Here’s a list of who really won and who really, really lost.

The Architects, the Maestros, or whatever they call campaign managers nowadays: Steve Lipinski and Darden Rice. Lapinski, Steve Kornell’s campaign manager, has put together a streak of impressive wins by paying attention to the details. Rice, who is quarterbacking Karl Nurse’s re-election effort, deserves recognition for not just going through the motions. Instead, Rice has set a blistering pace for a candidate who could have won without trying.

The Old Northeast: Just when it looks like the city is ready to elect someone without an “NE” at the end of their address, the residents of Shore Acres, Snell Isle, Venetian Isles and the other tony neighborhoods east of First Street reminded the rest of the city knows where the power lies. Sorry Pinellas Point, too bad Jungle Terrace.

The Unions: the PBA, the Service Employees and the St. Petersburg Firefighters: The PBA bet early and heavy on Bill Foster and that gambles paid off, the Service Employees counterintuitively backed Kathleen Ford, despite grumblings from some city workers afraid of a Ford administration, while the Firefighters were, as usual, a visible presence for Ford (and helped save Angela Rouson’s campaign in District 5).

You may love it, you may hate it, but this blog, Saint Petersblog, had as much effect on yesterday’s election as any other influence. I’ll refrain from celebrating at the demise of others, but the two candidates targeted by this blog — the two campaigns with the most resources and most organized efforts — went down hard. Deveron never recovered from the controversy over his driving record, which was first published here and on my affiliate blog What’s Wrong with Deveron. As for Wagman, I simply ran a guerilla campaign against someone trying to buy the election. I was there at every misstep — and there were many — to keep Wagman from getting traction. Wagman’s decision to contest a complaint I filed against him with the FEC, cost him any chance of winning the election. Wayne Garcia is right, I am a one-man wrecking crew.

The incumbents: Leslie Curran and Karl Nurse won their races with PlayStation scores, which bodes well for Jeff Danner and Jim Kennedy, who now have to get off their duffs and run for re-election.

Other winners: Angela and Darryl Rouson, the companies that make yard signs, candidates who “wave at cars.” Greg Wilson, who helped Ford and Kornell.

The Losers

The Wrestler: If yesterday’s election were a “Loser Leaves Town” match, a term I’m sure former professional wrestler Mitch Kates is familiar with, Jason the Terrible, err, Kates would be packing his bags right now. His candidate was outmaneuvered by two campaigns that spent half as much of the amount Wagman personally loaned his campaign. And don’t forget that Kates started this whole campaign boasting that he’d help Wagman raise $500,000. The strategic errors suffered by the Wagman are almost too many to list: the decision to hire organizer Toni Molinaro to handle field operations was an obvious disaster; Wagman’s policy gaffes, such as blurting out at an Editorial Board interview that he’d fire Goliath Davis or that he’d bulldoze The Pier; the campaign’s childish antics, such as claiming “sign monsters” were removing Wagman’s yard signs, while the candidate himself was caught illegally placing 600 yard signs in city right-of-ways; and, perhaps, most important, the campaign’s decision to contest a simple complaint lodged by me with the Florida Election Commission. The negative press Wagman endured during this episode came at about the same time the majority of absentee ballots were being returned, a fact that is reflected in Wagman’s poor showing among early voters. In the end, this was Wagman’s Waterloo.

The Managers Who Can’t Win: If she couldn’t win her own precinct for DEC chair, why would anyone hire Toni Molinaro to run a citywide campaign? And poor Nick Hansen, his resume reads: Angelo Cappelli, Mitt Romney, Deveron Gibbons.

The “Consultant Agnostic” Creative Team, Mity Mo: Mo Eppley and Co. did the collaterals and direct mail for Scott Wagman, but they probably aren’t crying too much after Wagman’s loss because his checks cleared long ago. Still, did they need to get involved with Joe Smith’s campaign?

Midtown and District 5 Residents: For a moment there, it looked like a candidate from outside the Old Northeast might tilt the balance of power, but Jamie Bennett and Larry Williams didn’t seem to have much of a base in District 5, while the Atwater crowd did everything it could to help Deveron Gibbons win, but without some salt to go with all that pepper, Gibbons could not break the 20% threshold.

The Reporters: No one, and I mean no one, is walking around today saying, “You know what, the St. Petersburg Times really did a good job covering the Mayoral Race.”

The Wannabes: Paul Congemi, Richard Eldrige, Ed Helm and John Warren. These four did not belong in the high-profile debates, taking away time from the legitimate candidates. Ed Helm needs to go away now, while John Warren’s vanity run was great advertising for his restaurant.

The Wives, Aimee Bennett and Pam Williams. These two independent women stood by their men in the face of bitter defeat and there is something to be said for that. Pam Williams did it with class, while Aimee Bennett, well, not so much. Mrs. Bennett, if you need help with that move to San Diego, just let me know.

Other Losers: Charlie Crist, whose endorsement is now the political kiss-of-death. Moneyed Republicans who backed Gibbons. Candidates who depend on social networking.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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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