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Kriseman appeared dumbfounded at the question, and wondered why she would bring it up.
Then there was last week’s potato salad incident. During the Bethel Church debate, activist “Momma Tee” Lassiter asked Ford what she had done specifically for Midtown.
“Momma T,” Ford responded, “you remember when we were fixing up that potato salad in Campbell Park for your festival? We had a lot of fun there. We had our sleeves rolled up … Wasn’t that fun?”
Some members of the audience gasped.
One of her most prominent supporters is Councilman Wengay Newton, who says unlike Kriseman, she’s a known quantity in the community.
“Kathleen Ford has been there from day one, even after losing by 25,000 votes (officially 24,228) in the last election. She didn’t go away. She didn’t disappear. No one has to ask who she is, where she came from, you know? She didn’t have PACs sending mailers to tell people who she is.”
But name recognition alone might not be enough.
Meanwhile, Mayor Foster has presented himself as the proud incumbent who has successfully led the city through the worst recession of our lifetimes. He often dismisses his challengers as pretenders who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about on issues like community policing.
“This is no time for on-the-job training,” he says at every candidate forum, often dismissing criticism by saying “hindsight’s 20/20.”
He’s also showing adaptability to changing circumstances (or, as his opponents charge, changing his positions to win election).
He took the Rays off the table as a campaign issue by announcing earlier this month that he will allow Rays owner Stuart Sternberg to talk with officials in Hillsborough County, a move the Tampa Tribune’s editorial page compared favorably with his previous “rigid refusal.”
And, staring at polls that show the Lens may die in next week’s referendum, he created the 828 Alliance, which is slated to give him a report on what to do if the contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture is terminated.
He also announced the formation of St. Pete Promise earlier this month, a program that will focus on recruiting mentors, raising funds for college scholarships, advocating for more legislative support for schools and teachers, and building a better relationship with the school district.
Kriseman has joked that he wishes every year was an election year, because of the mayor’s energy on these pressing issues.
He hopes to make that argument one-on-one after next week.
Three races for City Council are being contested next Tuesday. As with the mayoral contest, if no candidate in these contests gets over 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will compete in the general election on November 5.
District 4 (Crescent Lake, Euclid Heights, Euclid-St. Paul and Meadowlawn)
Darden Rice is the dream progressive candidate, and her visibility in public affairs over the past decade is paying dividends in endorsements. A former member of the Sierra Club, past president of the League of Women Voters, spokeswoman for a group advocating for healthcare reform, and current chair of the PSTA legislative committee, Rice is clearly the favorite of the St. Pete political establishment. As such, she has been doubled-teamed by her two most serious opponents in recent debates, Crescent Lakes Neighborhood Association President Carolyn Fries and Tea Party adherent David McKalip.
Rice has performed smoothly in her debate performances — perhaps too smoothly at times. At a Tiger Bay forum last week, she peppered her comments with political-insider buzzwords like “holistic” that sound impressive but often don’t amount to much.
More importantly, Rice is the only candidate in the race who supports the PSTA referendum in 2014 for Pinellas voters that will ask them to raise their taxes to begin construction of a light-rail system from St. Pete to Clearwater.
McKalip has been dropping rhetorical bombs throughout the campaign, at times leaving Rice smiling in astonishment as he interjects loaded non sequiturs like, “While she was working with the Sierra Club to take out cheap, incandescent light bulbs and replace them with toxic CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs), I was working after 9/11 with dozens of committees to prepare this city for domestic terrorism.”
And it was McKalip who called his critics “political terrorists” last week after his campaign manager, Nick Finzer, was slammed for a comment he made on WTSP-Channel 10’s website following an incident with an Obama-masked clown at the Missouri State Fair. “I think I’d like to see Obama run down by a bull,” Finzer said. “Except that would make Biden President.”
McKalip is hardly the only Tea Party candidate whose campaign has demonized Obama, but he has attracted extra scrutiny because of the email he infamously forwarded in 2009 that portrayed the president as a witch doctor in a loin cloth and headdress with bones in his nose. He apologized immediately for the email back then, and did so again last week at a Tiger Bay forum, but not before once again invoking the “political terrorist” line.
Fries has campaigned as a sensible, pro-neighborhood candidate, frequently invoking former Mayor Rick Baker and pledging to be a fiscal conservative, just not as strident as McKalip. She’s also talked about trying to heal a divided city. A native of Indiana, Fries took the high road early on in the campaign, deciding not to make an issue of residency questions that hamstrung Rice and McKalip. “I didn’t want to win that way,” she told the Tribune last month.
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