Rick Baker, Rick Kriseman still question which has been more partisan as mayor - Florida Politics

Rick Baker, Rick Kriseman still question which has been more partisan as mayor

Rick Baker knew for months that Rick Kriseman was going to attack him as an out-of-step Republican in a Democratically friendly city, even before entering the mayoral campaign last month.

In his campaign kickoff announcement, the former St. Petersburg Mayor warned supporters  they’d be getting a dose of such rhetoric from the Kriseman camp: “Because that’s the only thing they have.”

But last week, while filing papers for his official re-election run, Kriseman said that a review of who contributed to Seamless Florida, Baker’s political action committee, should make voters wonder about which candidate is the real partisan in the race.

“To say that he hasn’t been partisan as mayor and he hasn’t run a partisan campaign and you look at his fundraising and how much of it has come from Republicans, PACs, not individual donors, I think it’s up to voters to decide,” said Kriseman. “At least we’re up front about it.”

Among those giving $25,000 checks to Seamless Florida: Jobs For Florida, a PAC founded by Trilby Republican state Sen. Wilton Simpson; Floridians for Economic Freedom, a PAC chaired by Safety Harbor House Republican Chris Sprowls, and the Florida Roundtable, chaired by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In response, the Baker campaign told the Tampa Bay Times last week that nearly half of their 651 individual contributors gave $25 or less; roughly half were Democrats or independents.

And last Friday, when speaking with SaintPetersBlog, Baker went even further: “To me, if somebody contributes $5 they’re important to me. They might not be that important to Rick Kriseman, but they’re as important to me as anybody who contributed $5,000,” adding that he’s happy to get money from any corner of the community, regardless of political affiliation. “I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

“I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

But Kriseman replies that voters may need a history lesson if they’re going to be lectured about who has a partisan agenda.

“I think it’s a little disingenuous of him to talk about partisanship when he was mayor he was at campaign rallies for Sarah Palin and John McCain,” Kriseman said Thursday, an attack his campaign made even before Baker entered the race (Kriseman was a big Hillary Clinton supporter last year).

“We are seeing the poisonous impact of Washington type partisanship in the country and I don’t think we want that in St. Petersburg,” Baker replied last week, pointing out that a Times review of the people he hired in two terms as mayor showed more Democrats appointed than Republicans.

“I took an oath — as did Rick Kriseman — when I signed to run for election that it would be a nonpartisan seat and I always served that way,” Baker said.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.
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