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Bill Foster is Running for Re-Election as Mayor of St. Petersburg

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Bill Foster, Mayor of St. Petersburg

Bill Foster, Mayor of St. Petersburg

Commentary by GH Khan

The nonpartisan race for Mayor of St. Petersburg matters, and the time has come for conservatives of all stripes to fully and without reservation back the re-election of Bill Foster for Mayor of St. Petersburg.

That is the message emerging from a series of polls that show Foster trailing challengers Kathleen Ford and Rick Kriseman in the run-up to the August 27 St. Petersburg primary.  Conservatives need to set aside their disappointments with Foster over his often folksy, rather ambiguous, and sometimes downright mushy approach to many of the issues facing our fair city.  In particular, conservatives will have to overlook His Honor’s deficient leadership over issues surrounding The Pier.

This is a nonpartisan race with far-ranging consequences.  The chief executive of Florida’s third-largest city has influence far beyond City Hall, and far beyond the city limits.  This means that the more conservative the mayor is the more favorable the political environment will be for conservatives and their ideas, and that is why this race matters to conservatives.

It is extremely unlikely at this point that any candidate in the mayor’s race will receive the required 50% of the vote plus one to win the race in the August 27 St. Petersburg Primary, which means that there will be a November run-off between the two top vote getters.  The two biggest threats to Foster’s re-election are Ford and Kriseman.  The other two candidates in the race, Anthony Cates and Paul Congemi, are unlikely to have any statistically significant impact on the race.  Ford and Kriseman each show stronger polling strength than Foster, and Foster will have to beat at least one of them in the primary in order to be in the running in the November election.  Kriseman, an unremarkable garden-variety liberal Democrat, is seen by some as more beatable by Foster in November than remarkable progressive Democrat Ford would be, making Ford the candidate Foster must best in the primary.

To know Bill Foster is to like him.  The Mayor has done a lot of good campaigning to date, and has garnered a lot of important endorsements, but there is a lot more to be done.  Foster needs to shore up his base and, to the extent possible, expand his appeal to other voters.  He needs to send to voters a sharp, clear message of accomplishments and the path he will take to further accomplishments in his next term.  He needs to define his candidacy and the issues of the election, and not cede the initiative to his challengers to define things for him:  E.g., The Pier is only one of many issues facing St. Petersburg voters, and not the most important one in this election.  No more muddled, ambiguous pandering that appeals to all and satisfies none.  He needs to reconnect to social conservatives of all types, and not just the local Republican hierarchy (Foster is a Republican).  He badly needs to repair his relationship with St. Petersburg’s African-American community, which has a history of being very forgiving of political trespassing.  He needs to raise a boatload of money and use it to saturate the available media with his improved message.  Perhaps Foster also needs a new consultant, one who has an intimate understanding of the politics of The Burg and can generate a winning strategy that will get Foster through the primary and on to victory in November.

Kathleen Ford, candidate for Mayor of St. Petersburg

Kathleen Ford, candidate for Mayor of St. Petersburg

So, what’s not to like about Ford?

Kathleen Ford has unsuccessfully run for Mayor of St. Petersburg twice previously, losing the first time to Rick Baker and losing the second time to Bill Foster.  She has previously served on the City Council.  Ford is presently riding a wave of notoriety arising from her litigation over The Pier.  This will give her an edge with many of the voters who will be voting on The Pier in the August primary.  This popularity is, however, very thin and is undercut by several of Ford’s strong negatives.  To know Kathleen Ford is to have strong feelings about her; indeed, one of the jokes going around town lately is that “Will Rogers never met Kathleen Ford.”*  Ford  has been described as being self-righteous, condescending and rude to those who disagrees with her.  She also has been criticized for  being reluctant to admit  when she is wrong, and being given to blame others for her failings, as when in her 2009 campaign for mayor she disingenuously tried to blame her use of the racially offensive term “HNIC” on the radio host who was interviewing her when she used it.  It was this insensitivity and ignorance that earned Ford condemnation from distinguished St. Petersburg Times columnist Bill Maxwell and effectively destroyed her bid for mayor that year.  Her overall judgment and competency as an attorney is also questionable in light of the debacle she made of her lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg over the closing of The Pier, in which she made an ill-fated attempt to join as “indispensable parties” in the suit the more than 15,000 persons who signed the petition to get The Pier on the August ballot.

Ford also has been accused of being self-serving, and some have opined that Ford’s initiation of this ill-fated lawsuit was just a gimmick to get her name in the press and heighten her visibility prior to her run for mayor.  She also has been accused of being a loose cannon, which is one of the main reasons that the pro-abortion group Ruth’s List Florida  will not back her in this election, despite her credentials as a progressive.For conservatives, there is a lot about Ford to dislike.  During the June 28 mayoral candidate debate sponsored by the NAACP, Ford prattled on about, among other things, the need for “affordable” (read: taxpayer-funded) housing, her opposition to police chases, and her belief in (Republican) voter suppression.  In past elections Ford has been enthusiastically supported by the SEIU, the Suncoast Sierra Club, and the Florida National Organization of Women Political Action Committee.  Ford can fairly be described as a pandering progressive who favors big government with an authoritarian bent, making it very unlikely that she would be willing to work with members of the City Council to forge the sort of consensus that allows city government to serve its citizens effectively.

There is not much time left for conservatives to get in the game.  St. Petersburg has chosen not to do early voting, but voting by mail is an option.  The deadline to mail ballots to overseas and absent military voters is July 13; the deadline to begin to mail ballots to domestic voters is July 23.  The voter registration deadline is July 27.  The polls open on August 27 at 7:00 AM and close at 7:00 PM.  Don’t forget to bring some identification.

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* American humorist Will Rogers is famously quoted as having said that he never met a man he didn’t like.

Who is Anthony Cates and Why is He Running for Mayor of St. Petersburg?

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By GH Khan

Anthony Cates for Mayor Cropped 995415_292983784181058_1536351295_n

Anthony Lenard Cates, candidate for Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Who is Anthony Lenardo Cates and why is he running for Mayor of St. Petersburg?

Cates, age 23, is a newcomer to St. Petersburg politics who is not known to have had any prior interest in the subject.  In the balkanized demographics and byzantine politics of the great City of St. Petersburg, some see the Cates campaign as part of the effort of supporters of the incumbent mayor to split the opposition among the city’s African-American voters, who tend to vote in a block and have a history of supporting the winner in mayoral races.  There currently are 5 candidates in the race, including the incumbent Bill Foster, Rick Kriseman, Kathleen Ford, Paul Congemi, and Cates, making it unlikely that any candidate will get the required 50% plus one vote to take all in the August 27th primary election.  This, the speculators allege, provides an incentive for the incumbent campaign to encourage vote-splitting that prevents the strongest challenger, Ford, from surviving the primary.  No one is accusing His Honor or any of his supporters of doing anything illegal, and many brush off such speculation as nothing more than election-time paranoia.  At the same time, no one in the neighborhood is saying that Cates is running because this is America and everyone deserves a shot at becoming mayor.

Still, there are a few odd things that do bear mentioning.

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