St. Pete makes history, elects Ken Welch as next mayor

ABOVE: St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Ken Welch with Equality Florida Action PAC supporters Oct. 23. Photo by J.D. Casto courtesy EQFL.

ST. PETERSBURG | Ken Welch bested Robert Blackmon in the city’s general election Nov. 2, making history in the process. The longtime LGBTQ ally will serve as the city’s 54th and first Black mayor.

According to election night results from the Pinellas County Supervisor County of Elections, 67,054 ballots were cast for mayor in the nonpartisan race for a turnout of 36.40% of registered voters. As of Nov. 3, Welch received 40,555 votes or 60.48% while 26,499 were cast for Blackmon, or 39.52%.

Welch is a Democrat and former Pinellas County commissioner who served in the role for five terms. Blackmon, a Republican, is a first-term city councilmember whose resignation from the post is scheduled to take effect Jan. 6, 2022.

The mayor-elect was endorsed by a number of LGBTQ advocates and organizations ahead of the city’s primary election, including the statewide LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, its local chapter the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County and current St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. In the general election he was endorsed by Equality Florida Action PAC, the political arm of the state’s largest LGBTQ-focused organization.

Welch committed to continue his support of the LGBTQ community ahead of the election to Watermark, reflecting on his tenure as a county commissioner and more. His efforts in the position included amending the county’s Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation in 2008, a measure he reintroduced five years later to add protections for gender identity.

“I am an unapologetic ally of the LGBTQ community,” Welch said. “Progress is the key, and I’m proud to be a leader in the progress that we’ve made for equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ community in Pinellas … I will be intentional about continuing the great work of Mayor Kriseman and foster a city where everyone has a seat at the table.”

Welch echoed his inclusive approach to leadership during his victory speech, specifically citing St. Petersburg’s LGBTQ community.

“Tonight’s election victory confirms the desire of the people of St. Petersburg for leadership that will move us forward and not backwards,” Welch said from the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. “That is the very definition of progress, assuring that today is better than yesterday and tomorrow is better than today … that’s what the people have clearly stated that they want in this election.

“The people said that progress means affordability for the people who call St. Petersburg home,” Welch continued. “Affordable rent and homeownership, affordable water bills, transportation options and affordable taxes. The people said that progress means safe and healthy neighborhoods, where every child sees opportunity and hope – and health, education and nutrition disparities are addressed as priorities. The people said that progress means smart growth that protects our environment, invests in our infrastructure and maintains St. Pete’s character – and the people agree with my firmly held belief, that facts matter.”

St. Petersburg faces “the same economic, social and environmental challenges as any other American city,” Welch also noted, challenges he vowed to approach with partners of all backgrounds. He stressed that “all of our work should be built upon a strong foundation of equity, inclusion, diversity and community benefit. That is how we build inclusive progress for St. Petersburg.”

Welch ended his remarks by thanking friends, family and his broad coalition of supporters.

“I’m proud that my team, endorsers and supporters reflect our entire community,” Welch said. “Black and white, straight, LGBTQ, Latinx, from different parties, neighborhoods faith experiences and ages. This is who we are. I’m proud of our partnership and our unifying goal to progress, equity and equality for all.

“This election has made history in St. Petersburg,” he said. “It is my distinct honor to be the first African American mayor of my hometown – but let me be clear … making history without making a positive impact is an empty achievement. Our election victory must be followed by a purposeful agenda of opportunity, accountability and intentional equity for our entire community.”

The mayor-elect also thanked voters via social media:

Following his election, LGBTQ advocates throughout Tampa Bay congratulated Welch on his victory.

“Ken ran a positive, issues-driven campaign that emphasized the need for partnerships to propel St. Pete to the next level,” Mayor Kriseman shared. “The result was a decisive and historic victory that should serve as further proof of St. Pete’s progress and upwards trajectory.”

“Huge congratulations to St Pete Mayor-elect Ken Welch!” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the city’s first openly LGBTQ leader, also shared. “He made history tonight. It’s a win for City of St. Petersburg, Florida and all of Tampa Bay.”

“Ken Welch has been a progressive champion on the issues that matter most to the people of St. Petersburg,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said. “Ken Welch is a strong, seasoned, and tested leader and he will be an effective mayor for one of Florida’s most important pro-equality cities.”

In addition to electing Welch mayor, voters also determined St. Petersburg’s next city council. Copley Gerdes will represent District 1, Lisset Hanewicz District 4, Gina Driscoll District 6 and Richie Floyd District 8. Equality Florida had endorsed each candidate in their respective race.

For more about Mayor-elect Ken Welch’s vision for the city, visit

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