Rick Baker is not quite finished with Kevin King.
In a new radio ad released Friday morning, the former two-term mayor is once again blasting incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for a “lack of judgment” in hiring King as his longtime chief of staff.
Throughout the week, Baker’s campaign continually hammered his opponent on the issue of King’s now 16-year-old arrest. While the incident had been reported several times in the past, it only re-emerged as a campaign issue in the St. Pete mayoral race this week.
Produced by Seamless Florida, Baker’s political committee, the “Tolerance” radio spot cites several Tampa Bay Times articles between 2001 through 2013 “outlining the order of events that led Kriseman to hire and promote” King, a former Pinellas County substitute teacher arrested in 2001 for sending emails and internet messages to two female students, ages 14 and 15, asking them to skip school and drink beer with him.
Police also accused King of asking the 14-year-old to perform a sex act.
“Rick Kriseman knew this,” the female narrator says in the ad. “But chose to hire this guy anyway … Then put him in charge of education policy.”
The ad does not mention King by name.
“I’ll never forgive Rick Kriseman for this,” the woman continues. “It’s sickening.”
Unlike a previous TV ad from Seamless, Baker himself appears in the spot, with a voice-over saying he has “zero tolerance for putting our children at risk.”
The minute-long ad also has Baker criticizing Kriseman for his “previous tolerance of hate speech” – looking the other way when mayoral candidate Paul Congemi told Uhuru supporters to “go back to Africa” during a candidate forum earlier this year.
“This is got to stop,” Baker concludes.
Police arrested King at the time, booking him on three charges: one count of computer solicitation to commit a lewd and lascivious act, and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The Pinellas County school district fired him soon afterward.
King was never convicted, and court records were sealed and expunged.
“Rick Kriseman’s poor judgment and the tolerance that he has shown for hate speech and lewd and lascivious behavior in our own city, against our own residents and children is unconscionable,” said Baker campaign manager Nick Hansen in a statement.
The ad can be heard below: