But as the moderator of the event, I was fortunate enough to get the reactions from both Bill Foster and Rick Kriseman on a couple of issues that I hadn't heard them discuss in previous forums. One was on the level of partisanship in this fiercely contested race.
I understand that local races aren't supposed to be partisan, but come on. The fact is that Rick Kriseman is a Democrat and Bill Foster is a Republican, and though perhaps most of the citizens in St. Pete aren't obsessing on that distinction when they make their choice on Nov. 5, interested people throughout Florida do care about it — from both political parties.
You might recall that Mayor Foster blasted Kriseman right before last month's primary election, writing in a email release to his supporters that Kriseman made the race "partisan," and that the majority of his fundraising had come from people outside of St. Petersburg.
So the question went to Kriseman last night: Were the mayor's comments fair? (And as a participant in the endeavor, I'm going to give full quotes here.)
Kriseman: "No, and actually I'm the only candidate running for mayor that has received bipartisan support from elected officials at every level. I've also received hundreds of contributions — from $5 to $500 from people residing in the city of St. Petersburg. I'm very proud of the support that I've received. I'm proud of the endorsements that I've received. It's fascinating that five out of our eight council members have endorsed me over the incumbent mayor. And those council members are not all from my party. They're Republican and non-party affiliated members." (Leslie Curran and Jeff Danner, respectively.)
Foster: "Just do the math. All the campaign expenditures are on the website. Do the math. Seventy-five percent of Mr. Kriseman's contributions come from outside the area. About 74 percent I think, go outside of the area. They don't support local small businesses. And 75 percent of my contributions come from St. Petersburg and even more than that stay local. So Mr. Kriseman talks about the budget somewhat being indicative of your priorities? Local businesses are my priority. Which is why my money is staying local."
Kriseman: "Mr. Foster's main political adviser in his campaign (Jack Hebert) is one of the top lobbyists in Tallahassee. So I don't know how that's exactly local. And if you look at my contributions and expenditures, a majority of money I spent was on television — and you probably saw my ads — on Bright House."
(UPDATE):Kriseman campaign manager Cesar Fernandez just sent out an email reporting that Kriseman has raised more than $50,000 in the past 17 days. He said that came from more than 200 contributers, 75 percent of which came from Pinellas County. "A majority of the contributions came from within St. Petersburg," he wrote.