Asked whether Rick Kriseman would be a good mayor, St. Petersburg's Bill Foster replied, "Yeah, I think it's something that he could aspire to in four years."
But Kriseman has something sooner in mind. Monday, he officially became a candidate for the position Foster has held for three years: mayor of St. Petersburg.
And there may be others: The filing deadline is in June. But the incumbent now has at least one strong challenger.
Kriseman is a 50-year-old personal injury attorney with a wife and two children. He has also won elected office several times, as a city councilman and a state representative.
On his first day as a candidate, Kriseman immediately zeroed in on some of Foster's high-profile challenges. On the Lens, the proposed replacement for the downtown Pier, Kriseman said, "I'm not crazy about the design, honestly," but pointed out the existing Pier will be closed months before the election.
If the Lens is built, the candidate pledged to manage it well, which mirrors Foster's position. The Lens was also not Foster's first design choice, but now he is handcuffed to it.
"I can't help those that hate the existing proposed design," Foster told FOX 13 News. "What I can do is make sure it's programmed with the locals in mind to get people excited about the new Pier."
Foster admitted the Pier will be an election issue. So will the continuing feud with the Tampa Bay Rays, who want a new baseball stadium, probably not in downtown St. Petersburg again.
Foster has taken a lot of heat for defending the city's lease on Tropicana Field. That contract specifically forbids the Rays from looking at stadium sites outside of St. Petersburg. Foster thinks St. Petersburg voters know he is defending their investment in the Trop.
Kriseman thinks the team's wish to consider stadium sites in Hillsborough County could be accommodated.
"We've got to have that discussion," Kriseman said. "We're not even having that discussion right now."
The challenger also criticized the mayor for mishandling the recent closure of a supermarket in Midtown, and for firing, then not replacing, a popular administrator who focused on Midtown's needs.
"It's a credibility issue, it's a trust issue" Kriseman continued. "I think the mayor has lost some trust in the way he's handled some things in that community."
Foster disagreed, claiming he has good relations with neighborhoods throughout the city, including Midtown.
"I think most of our residents look at the overall successes," Foster told FOX 13 News. "I now have three years of experience, three years of a record to run on."
It is the same record Kriseman will run against.
"Everything that we're talking about, whether it's the Pier, whether it's the Rays, whether it's the budget, these are all leadership issues, and certainly I think in some ways there's been a lack of leadership."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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