Kriseman wins primary by 70 votes, will face Baker in November run-off

ST. PETERSBURG | On August 29, with a turnout of nearly 34 percent of the city’s registered voters, St. Petersburg decided Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker would move from the mayoral primary to a run-off in November’s general election.

Had any of the six eligible candidates for mayor obtained over 50 percent of the vote, St. Petersburg would have chosen its next mayor. Of the two viable options, neither frontrunner managed to do so—though the city’s current mayor, Kriseman, won the primary by 70 votes.

Of the 56,630 ballots cast, Kriseman received 27,325, or 48.36 percent of the vote. Behind him, former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker received 27,255, or 48.23 percent. None of the remaining four candidates garnered even 2 percent of the vote.

The race for St. Petersburg’s next mayor was officially non-partisan, though in today’s polarized political climate, it was anything but. As Watermark has reported, Kriseman is an outspoken Democrat and is a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ community, something he gladly discussed with us ahead of the election.

Baker, by contrast, is a Republican who has found himself at odds with the LGBTQ community for much of his political career. It’s something we would have discussed with the former mayor ahead of his second-place result, had he or his team responded to our multiple requests for comment.

According to data consultant MCI Maps, Democrats accounted for 51.5 percent of the total vote cast in the primary, the highest percentage for the party in recent years. That may not be surprising, given that 78,253 of the city’s 169,770 registered voters identify as Democrats. (By contrast, 47,011 identify as Republicans and 44,506 have no party affiliation.)

It’s a fact that certainly didn’t hurt Kriseman, nor did the fact that he was endorsed for re-election by Barack Obama in only the former president’s second endorsement of a mayoral candidate since leaving office in January.

After all of St. Petersburg’s 92 precincts had reported their vote count, and before he knew he’d come out ahead of Baker, Kriseman took the stage at an election night event to “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “We didn’t back down, did we?” the mayor asked his supporters to cheers.

“I know it hasn’t been easy,” Kriseman continued. “Rick Baker’s special interest friends have made sure about that. But tonight is evidence that the people of St. Petersburg, the people who prefer progress to politics, are more than ready to fight for our city and for our progressive values. That’s really what this is about. That’s what these next two months will be about.”

Kriseman told supporters that should Baker win November’s election, “he will turn the clock back on St. Pete. He will take us back to a time of back-room deals, to a time when the rainbow flag and the flag celebrating Black History Month didn’t fly proudly over City Hall, to a time when crime was up and opportunity was down.”

“This is a make or break moment for the future of St. Petersburg. We have two candidates who are diametrically opposite as far as the path they will take the city,” Stonewall Democrats President Susan McGrath told Watermark. “If you desire a city where everyone is welcome and see that we are moving in the right direction, the decision to support Mayor Kriseman should be clear. Vote, but also volunteer an hour or two. It’s too important not to. The impact of this election will be felt for decades.”

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