St. Pete City Council picks sides on mayor's race
It’s very early in St. Petersburg’s mayoral race -- even if the rhetoric so far has the heat of a stretch run -- but City Council and the Mayor’s office have a budget to hammer out, police headquarters and Pier construction to monitor and an ongoing sewage crisis to mitigate.
Will the mayoral race gum up the relationship between the opposite ends of the second floor of City Hall?
Six of the eight council members have already endorsed either incumbent Rick Kriseman, a Democrat, or his Republican opponent, former mayor Rick Baker.
So far, four council members are on Team Kriseman. Two back Baker. And two are holdouts, although both of them, Democrats Karl Nurse and Steve Kornell, endorsed Kriseman four years ago.
Council member Jim Kennedy, a Democrat, heartily endorsed Baker at a City Hall rally Tuesday.
Kennedy and Kriseman have clashed after the term-limited council member bucked the mayor's plans to let the Tampa Bay Rays look outside the city for a new ballpark.
Kennedy was being stripped of a committee seat and regular transportation meetings with the mayor. Kennedy, the chair of the council’s Budget, Finance and Taxation Committee, also had to go through City Administrator Gary Cornwell to ask questions of budget staff for months, he said.
"He is the candidate that knows how to work with City Council as a team for the best interests of the city," Kennedy said at Baker's announcement Tuesday.
Council member Ed Montanari, the council’s lone Republican, also attended Baker’s rally and endorsed him.
Democrats Darden Rice, Amy Foster, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Charlie Gerdes have all endorsed Kriseman.
Rice, when Kriseman announced in January, sung his praises as having successfully tackled tough issues like the city's sewage crisis, the Rays stalemate and the long-delayed Pier and police headquarters.
"It's been a heavy lift," Rice said at the Jan. 25 announcement at Three Birds Tavern.
Just Nurse and Kornell remain uncommitted.
Nurse said Kriseman asked him for an endorsement, but the term-limited council member declined until he could get more of his goals accomplished on his dwindling time on council.
“I expect I’ll say something in August,” Nurse said Wednesday.
“I’ll say something,” Nurse replied.
Kornell said he didn’t think voters needed to know his mayoral preference.
“I don’t think voters need me to tell them how to vote,” he said.
Kornell said continued improvements in the Skyway Marina district and solving the city’s sewage crisis would take up his time.
“Getting involved in a nasty mayor’s race isn’t one of those issues,” Kornell said.