St. Petersburg Mayoral Election Forum

Sep 27, 2017

The differing views of St. Petersburg mayoral candidates were on display Tuesday night as Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker gathered with residents for a forum to discuss issues affecting the city.

During the forum, moderated by Stephanie Owens of the League of Women Voters, incumbent Mayor Kriseman and former Mayor Baker responded to questions from audience members on topics like Hurricane Irma, climate change, affordable housing and the city’s sewage system.      

One of the main issues brought up was construction of the St. Petersburg Pier.

Baker took issue with Kriseman’s decision to take a vote on the design of the pier, and then not abide by the results.

Kriseman said that with Baker’s law experience, he should understand state law prevents voters from choosing architects for public projects. He added that the public vote was still considered when he made the decision.

Baker rebutted, “If you know as an attorney that you’re not going to listen to their vote why give them a vote?”

Both candidates accused each other of making poor decisions during their time in office.

Baker criticized Kriseman’s decision to close the Albert Whitted sewage plant, which treated 25 million gallons of sewage per day. He said shutting down the plant has made it more difficult to adapt to rising sea levels and meet the needs of St. Pete’s growing population.

When responding to a question about diversity, Mayor Kriseman pointed out Baker refused to sign a proclamation of LGBT Pride month while he was mayor.

Kriseman, who was the first mayor to march in a St. Petersburg Pride parade, said he recognized the month by hanging the rainbow Pride flag outside City Hall. He similarly commemorated Black History month with the Carter G. Woodson flag. Woodson was a writer and historian known as the "Father of Black History Month." 

Kriseman concluded his answer with, “If you’re going to be mayor for the entire city, you have to be the mayor of the entire city.”

Baker took one last dig at Kriseman during his final remarks as he invited people to visit his website: “I invite you to comment on it and blog – not the professional bloggers I get from Mr. Kriseman’s campaign – but everybody else.”

Kriseman critiqued Baker in his closing statement, when he asked the crowd, “Do we want to be an open, welcoming community or do we want to be a community that turns backwards in the way we think?”

Registration for the Nov. 7 general election is open until October 10 and requests for mail-in ballots end November 1. Early voting runs from October 28 - November 5. 

Kriseman concluded his answer with, “If you’re going to be mayor for the entire city, you have to be the mayor of the entire city.”

Baker took one last dig at Kriseman during his final remarks as he invited people to visit his website: “I invite you to comment on it and blog – not the professional bloggers I get from Mr. Kriseman’s campaign – but everybody else.”

Kriseman’s critique of Baker was slightly more subtle in his closing statement, when he asked the crowd, “Do we want to be an open, welcoming community or do we want to be a community that turns backwards in the way we think?”

Voters have until November 7 to elect their preferred candidate. Registration for the general election is open until October 10 and by-mail requests end November 1. Early voting runs from October 28 - November 5.