Partisan undertones to St. Pete mayoral race - FOX 13 News

Partisan undertones to St. Pete mayoral race

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St. Petersburg's municipal elections are non-partisan. Both candidates for mayor philosophically agree with that approach.

"There's no red or blue, or Republican or Democrat, in filling a pot hole or dispatching police, fire, EMS, cutting a park, building a rec center," incumbent Bill Foster told FOX 13 News. "You can't get into this partisan bickering, we can't shut down the city of St. Petersburg."

While Foster referred to the current budget showdown in Washington, challenger Rick Kriseman recalled his days as a Democratic lawmaker in Republican state legislature.

"In Tallahassee, it's destroying government and that is the nice thing about local government, is that it is not partisan," Kriseman said.

Yet both candidates are now receiving support from their respective political parties. Foster claims Kriseman started it.

"Looking at his campaign treasurer's reports it became very clear that this was a number one priority of his state party -- the mayor's race of St. Petersburg," Foster alleged. "So, I think it was inevitable that my party came in to assist."

Last week, Foster made his first appearance before the Florida cabinet in Tallahassee, speaking about the impacts of the flood insurance crisis. Tuesday, he shared a microphone with Republican Governor Rick Scott at a Clearwater rally on the same subject. As for cash contributions, "I do think that some assistance is on the way, and rightfully so," Foster said.

Kriseman disavows the influence of party politics, claiming " I've got elected officials, Republicans and Democrats that are both supporting me."

He also pointed out none of his campaign advertisements refer to his partisan background.

"The voters in St. Pete, they don't care what party you are," Kriseman said, minutes after unveiling his detailed plan for managing the city. "They only care what you want to do to make the community better."

Foster suspected partisan politics are now a permanent part of the local political races.

"I think it's going to be the norm for municipal elections going forward," Foster said, accusing the Democratic party of using local government "... as a great minor league or farm system for higher office."

Election day is still a month away, but mail-in ballots went out this week. In the August primary, more than half of the votes cast were by mail.

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