Kriseman Wins Second Term To Lead St. Petersburg
Just a few months ago, less than 100 votes separated the two candidates in the race to be mayor of St. Petersburg.
That wasn't the case Tuesday night, as incumbent Rick Kriseman beat former mayor Rick Baker by more than 2,000 votes.
The final tally, according to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections: Kriseman with 51.64 percent; Baker with 48.36 percent.
Before polls closed at 7 p.m., most of the several hundred people mingling at Kriseman’s watch party at the Nova 535 club were anxious and talking about a recount. That quickly shifted to a celebration, with people dancing to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” played and a TV showed the broadcast of Baker’s concession speech.
But during his brief victory speech, Kriseman reminded them of campaign's divisive tone over the past five months.
He told the crowd that he is ready to move past the relentless criticism Baker lobbed - from Kriseman's handling of massive sewage spills into Tampa Bay waters to delays on the downtown pier.
"When the dust settles I believe Rick Baker and I can work together and put St. Pete first," he said.
Those speaking before Kriseman, like Pinellas School Board member Rene Flowers, openly connected Kriseman’s win in the non-partisan race to Democratic Party connections. She rattled off a litany of party favorites – from local Congressman Charlie Crist, to former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.
Kriseman himself didn't mention partisan politics. He did, however, credit the win to issues reflecting Democratic party values.
"From climate change and clean energy to inclusivity to campaign finance reform, we already are seen as a leader, but we can do so much more," he said.
Polls up until the end showed that Baker and Kriseman were in a tight-race, and one that was being watched across Florida and across the country. More than $3 million had been raised for the two camps – from partisan groups and supporters from as far away as Las Vegas and Hawaii.
Hundreds of Baker supporters gathered early at his watch party at 400 Beach, a downtown restaurant.
Though Rick Baker briefly mentioned some of his campaign's biggest issues - public safety and economic development - he was defiant in his concession speech.
"I remain committed to the principles behind the campaign that we ran, and to the city that I have worked most of my adult life to try to improve," the former two-term mayor said.
Baker was asked if he had called Kriseman, or if he had a message to share.
He did not.
Instead, Baker said he hoped St. Pete can continue the progress started sixteen years ago when he first became mayor.
"You know, I've never been one to really second guess things. You run, you leave everything on the field, you run a vigorous race, you do your best, and however it goes, it goes,” he said. “And then you get up the next day and move on."