St. Pete mayoral race begins to take shape - FOX 13 News

St. Pete mayoral race begins to take shape

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

Former St. Petersburg city council member Kathleen Ford Monday launched her third mayoral campaign, in an announcement to supporters with a made-for-politics prop: The St. Pete Pier.

"Certainly, if the city plans to destroy a multimillion dollar asset like the Pier for example, the citizens of St. Petersburg should have a vote," Ford said.

Her position is no surprise: She is the attorney for a group of petitioners known as voteonthepier.com. More than 23,000 registered voters signed the petition, which was subsequently ignored by city council on technical grounds.

The city council's decision was affirmed by a circuit court judge, and Ford is still considering whether to appeal that ruling.

"Of course it's going to be a part of the campaign," Ford acknowledged outside city hall, after filing candidacy paperwork.

However, she also touched on other issues, including the city's problematic red light cameras and the way money is raised and spent.

"There's a feeling from the folks that I've talked to that the citizens are being nickeled and dimed to death," Ford said.

Ford becomes the second strong challenger to incumbent Bill Foster, who defeated her four years ago. Last week, about how the Pier controversy might affect his re-election bid, Foster told FOX 13 News "That's going to have to be up to voters as to whether or not this single issue of the inverted pyramid trumps everything we've done."

He then added "Have I lost sleep? No."

However, Foster may have other vulnerabilities, most notably a lack of support among African Americans. Ford supporter Ray Tampa, former president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, listed several:

  • The firing of Goliath Davis, the black community's liaison to city hall
  • The closing of Midtown's only supermarket
  • Foster's open disdain for Wengay Newton, the only African-American on the city council
  • Complaints about crime and heavy-handed police tactics
  • And Foster's role as county co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

"People are recognizing that Mayor Foster does not represent the interest in the African-American community," Tampa claimed.

Friday, Foster secured endorsements from the unions representing St. Petersburg firefighters and police officers, even though the filing deadline is still two months away.

Former state legislator and city councilman Rick Kriseman is also running for mayor. Assuming no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote in an August primary election, the top two candidates face off in November.

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