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David Straz makes first public appearance as potential Tampa mayoral candidate

Philanthropist and former banker David Straz Jr. had a coming-out party (of sorts) Sunday, hosting a spaghetti lunch for more than 250 people in West Tampa.

It was his first public appearance since forming an exploratory committee two months ago for a potential run for Tampa mayor in 2019.

The 74-year-old Wisconsin native already had enjoyed a long and distinguished career before becoming a much better-known quantity in the Tampa Bay-area in November 2009. That’s when he made a substantial financial contribution (rumored to be as high as $25 million) to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center which resulted in the facility changing its name to the Straz Center.

He’s also been involved for over a decade with individuals like Al Fox to advocate for closer relations between Tampa and Cuba.

A political independent, Straz was an ally of former mayor Dick Greco, supporting him when he ran for yet another reign as Tampa mayor in 2011. After Greco lost to Bob Buckhorn in the primary, Straz backed Buckhorn and then became in charge of his transition team.

Since announcing that he was forming an exploratory committee in late September, Straz has refused interviews with inquiring reporters about his possible candidacy. When confronted by this reporter shortly after the doors opened at the Sons of Italy hall on Sunday, he initially said it was “not a media event” before succumbing to answer a couple of questions.

“What I’m doing right now is getting around to various constituencies around the community,” he said. “I’m listening to what they have to say and what their priorities are.”

On Friday, Straz met with members of the black community. Councilman Frank Reddick is onboard with a Straz candidacy and said the meeting went well.

“In order to get my support, you’ve gotta put a plan together that the people can benefit from,” the District 5 representative said, adding that there’s been too much emphasis on downtown in the Buckhorn years.

Reddick wants the next mayor to engage more in developing both east and west Tampa.

“We need someone who understands the lack of resources and economic development in that area,” Reddick said. “David Straz will look into that and see what he can do to improve those areas.”

Straz is a political independent who has given substantial campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats over the years.

“Honestly, I thought he was a registered Democrat,” joked Travis Horn, a member of the Hillsborough Republican Party. “I’m involved in Ybor City and as a businessman. I don’t go around asking people for their party ID.

“Money is green, and we want to see the city succeed.”

The most problematic event for Straz since forming his exploratory committee was the revelation last year that he supported Donald Trump for president. That led to some comments on social media that he already disqualified himself in such a Democratic-leaning city, but prominent Hillsborough County Democrat Patrick Manteiga defends Straz over his support for the president.

“I think he would not vote for him again, he’s already told me that, and mistakes happen,” said Manteiga, who is editor/publisher of La Gaceta. Last year, a lot of Manteiga’s friends surprised him by opposing Hillary Clinton and choosing Trump.

Manteiga pushes back on the theory that Straz is an unknown political quantity.

“We do know where he is on a lot of things,” he said. “The guy gave a lot of money to the performing arts and a lot of money to education, so you’re talking about somebody who’s obviously has made a decision before he was running that this was a city that he wanted to invest in, this was a city that he wanted to put his name on.”

What excites Mario Nunez about a potential Straz candidacy is his alliance with Fox in promoting the liberalization of Cuban relations.

“I’m going all in on the Cuba conversation,” Nunez said. “That’s where my heart is.”

Where Straz’s heart is at when it comes to putting together a campaign to lead the city in 2019 is still being determined.

Before announcing last month that he would not pursue the Democratic nomination for governor, Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan told a Tiger Bay Club audience in St. Petersburg he wanted to see how much interest the public had in him before decided to upend his life to pursue a run for elected office.

Reddick said Straz is also currently assessing if there is sufficient support in Tampa for him to go all out in a run for the mayor’s office in 16 months.

“He wants to see what type of support base he’s going to get, that’s what he’s looking at now,” the councilman said. “And if the community really wants a visionary, David’s that person and I’m just hoping that people reach out to him, and say ‘do this.'”

Andrew Gillum picks ‘unapologetic progressive’ as new campaign manager

Andrew Gillum named as his new campaign manager on Tuesday an “unapologetic progressive” whose political work has included Pennsylvania-based campaigns for Hillary Clinton and John Fetterman, a mayor who is now running to be that state’s lieutenant governor.

As the Democratic Primary recently expanded to four candidates, Brendan McPhillips is swooping in to fill the seat left vacant by Phillip Thompson in July to help the Tallahassee Mayor reach the governor’s mansion.

The new hire comes a couple months after Gillum brought on Akilah Ensley as his new finance director in an effort to breathe some life into his fundraising, which is currently in a months-long drought and has been since the dual specters of an email scandal and an FBI investigation arrived in the early days of his campaign.

“The Mayor has an unmatched progressive record, from beating the gun lobby in court to standing up against oil pipelines, and I know that in 2018 we are finally going to take back the Governor’s Mansion,” McPhillips said in a statement.

A self-proclaimed beer enthusiast on Twitter, McPhillips said Gillum will not get across the finish line by running “Republican Lite—we have to be bold to convince this state that it is out time to put a Democrat in charge again.”


The hire was announced by campaign communications director Geoff Burgan, who said McPhillips “will bring new ideas to this race, and help us ensure true Democratic values are a part of every conversation between now and Election Day.”

Gillum faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the primary race, and trails all three when it comes to fundraising.

Levine, the latest to enter the race, had a million-dollar month in October and has $5.4 million in the bank. He leads the Democratic field, followed by Graham with $2.66 million on hand and King with about $1.7 million on hand. Gillum had $557,571 on hand at the end of October.

Raquel Regalado exits crowded race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

One of the top Republican candidates running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District withdrew from the race earlier this week, leaving two GOP candidates and a slew of Democrats in the mix for 2018.

Raquel Regalado’s exit from the race was first reported by the Miami Herald, which received a letter from the candidate Wednesday explaining her decision to bow out of the race.

“I was a nonpartisan School Board member for more than six years. Some of my former constituents were shocked to learn my party affiliation given my ardent defense of public education, pro-labor platform, and commitment to social services,” she wrote. “In the months that followed, I repeatedly explained that I am and have always been a fiscal conservative and a moderate. And while well received by most, it was somewhat concerning to see how some reacted to the terms moderate, progressive or socially responsible Republican.”

Regalado went on to express her disenchantment with the political climate in 2018, saying she was “saddened that the first words that come to mind when we think of our national government is ineffective and circuslike.”

“As the granddaughter of political prisoner who spent two decades in prison and the daughter of a Peter Pan who was sent to this country as a child seeking freedom and who dedicated more than two decades to public service, the current political climate and the level of disrespect and disregard for the values that our nation is founded on is disheartening — on both sides of the aisle,” she wrote.

Regalado’s exit from the race leaves two Republicans in the race: County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera.

Barreiro is far ahead of his primary opponent in fundraising with $218,000 raised and $187,050 on hand as of the end of the third quarter. Rodriguez-Aguilera had reported just under $5,000 raised and $4,681 on hand through the same date.

More than a half-dozen Democrats are also running for the seat, which Hillary Clinton carried by 20 points despite sending Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, back to congress for another term.

Among them are state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, state Rep. David Richardson, Mary Barzee Flores and Matthew Hagman, each of whom have campaign accounts with well more than a couple hundred thousand dollars on hand.

EMILY’s List backs Mary Barzee Flores in CD 27 scrum

EMILY’s List, the political action committee that supports pro-choice female Democrat candidates, is endorsing former judge Mary Barzee Flores for Congress in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

CD 27 is the Miami-Dade County seat which will open next year for the first time in three decades when Republican incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen steps down.

“Mary Barzee Flores has built a reputation as a dogged public defender and empathetic judge in the same community she was born and where she and her husband are raising their family. Now EMILY’s List is proud to endorse her as she seeks to bring her incredible work ethic and passion for her hometown to the halls of Congress,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

The seat at once became a top target for Democrats nationally after Ros-Lehtinen suddenly announced in the spring that she will retire from the seat she has held since 1988. Her decision prompted election handicappers like Sabato’s Crystal Ball to change the CD 27 rating from “likely Republican” to “leans Democrat.”

In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried the district by more than 20 points.

“This open seat represents an opportunity for Floridians to send a message to Washington,” Schriock adds. “Working families need a representative who will fight to protect basic women’s health care services, defend against the rolling back of environmental protections, and push to reform our broken immigration system. Mary is ready for the job, and we look forward to supporting her every step of the way.”

Although Ros-Lehtinen said that her decision to retire had nothing to do with some of her differences with President Donald Trump, she is one of a growing list of House Republicans (now at 12) who won’t run for re-election in 2018 in what could be a tough year for Republicans.

Barzee Flores is one of nine Democrats running in the contest, along with state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, state Rep. David Richardson, Miami City Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Ken Russell, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Mark Anthony Person and Marvin Dunn.

Six Republicans are in the race: Miami City Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, former Miami Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, Gabe Ferrer, Maria Pedro, Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera and Gina Sosa-Suarez.

Mary Barzee Flores impeachment talk hits the mark; will Democrats listen?

There are three critical “T’s” of political campaigns: timing, temperature and tone.

Mary Barzee Flores hit all three when she called for the impeachment of Donald Trump.

The former circuit judge and current candidate in Miami’s “clown car” Democratic primary in Florida’s 27th Congressional District also urged fellow Democrats to run on the issue in 2018.

Let’s put aside (for a moment) the substance of Flores’ impeachment talk. Personally, I believe it’s premature.

Premature as the policy itself may be, we’re talking about politics and campaigns right now. From that perspective, the timing of Flores’ announcement could not have been better, appearing in the print edition of the Miami Herald (still read by the older, more educated voters who tend to come out in August primaries) the day after Tuesday’s Democratic mini-wave in the mid-midterms.

You can parse Tuesday’s results however you’d like, but it was the most precise indicator yet of the electorate’s growing anger with the president, as well as the Democratic excitement at the prospect of taking him head-on.

If there was a day for a congressional candidate to stake out space among the base, in a crowded, 7-candidate primary, Wednesday was it.

And impeachment is the issue.

Flores clearly has her finger on the temperature of the Democratic electorate right now. Anyone who’s watching and doesn’t think that temperature is rising, and rising quickly, isn’t really paying attention.

I’m looking at you, Nancy Pelosi.

While Pelosi pooh-pooh’s the effort, billionaire liberal mega-donor, Tom Steyer announced his new campaign, “Need to Impeach,” will double its spending (to $20 million) and has garnered nearly 2 million signatures for its online petition calling for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.

Steyer also released the results of a 1,200-sample poll conducted for Need to Impeach by the veteran (and respected in Florida) pollster, John Anzalone.

Nearly 80 percent of likely 2020 presidential primary voters — both Democratic and independents — currently support the “impeachment and removal from office” of President Trump; 62 percent do so strongly, suggesting a high level of intensity among the base.

And finally — even for someone like me, who is not yet on board with the impeachment train — Flores gets the tone of her statement just right.

While simply calling for the president’s impeachment is bold in itself, she nevertheless manages to make a deliberate, professorial case for impeachment, which can quickly get your head nodding as she lays the argument out.

Flores, a well-respected lawyer for nearly three decades, spent eight years as a circuit judge, receiving the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association when President Barack Obama nominated her to the federal bench.

She is not the candidate you would expect to be the first in Florida to come out strongly for impeachment — but she makes a strong argument, one that’s befitting of her profile and experience.

At this point, the CD 27 primary remains “anything can happen, anyone could win.”

But if Flores ultimately wins and becomes the nominee (and, as a Democrat, will be the prohibitive favorite in a district that went +20 for Hillary Clinton), I would bet that her being the first one to publicly call for impeachment will have played a big part in getting there.

Mary Barzee Flores: ‘Impeach Trump’ must be Democratic candidates’ rallying cry

President Donald J. Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

As a former judge, I don’t make that statement lightly, but I have come to believe such steps, sadly, are necessary to restore trust, respect, and dignity to the American presidency.

That said, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — and those of the U.S. House and Senate — must continue unimpeded, particularly in light of the indictments unsealed last week against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea.

We deserve a complete accounting of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and answers to whether the president obstructed justice in the course of that investigation. Any who violated our laws deserve swift and sure punishment.

I spent nearly a decade as a judge and over a decade prior as a federal public defender. I have a deep and abiding respect for the notion that no man or woman — even the president of the United States — is above the law. But prosecuting a sitting president is not as simple as empaneling a grand jury and filing an indictment in federal court. Nor should it be.

This is why the U.S. Constitution lays out the standards and procedure of impeachment. Unlike the justice system, a “crime” need not be committed to impeach a public official, nor does committing a crime necessarily warrant impeachment. Articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution grant the legislative branch broad responsibility to determine which acts rise to a level requiring the exercise of this authority.

But even in the unlikely event that Mueller’s investigation does not find that Trump himself committed criminal trespasses, it doesn’t require a team of prosecutors to make the case that this president has — in ways large and small — violated the sanctity of the public’s trust to an extent great enough to merit removal from office.

We needn’t await Mueller’s report to know that, in less than a year in office, Trump has:

– Fired an FBI director investigating his administration for failing to demonstrate sufficient loyalty.

– Hired a national security adviser who the nation’s highest intelligence officials warned was compromised by Russia.

– Pardoned a political supporter in such a way as to disrespect and weaken the judiciary’s inherent authority.

– Betrayed the trust of one of our closest allies, Israel, by passing classified intelligence to Russia, risking human lives and compromising national security.

– Appointed family members, sycophants and business partners to high-ranking government positions.

– Profited personally in office, in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

For all these reasons, and many more, this president should be impeached and removed from office.

While the White House veers dangerously off course, only the U.S. House of Representatives has the constitutionally endowed power to get our country moving back in the right direction by initiating articles of impeachment.

Unfortunately, under the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan, this House has only acted to empower and enable Trump. This House’s own “investigation” into the president is so compromised as to be laughable. This House is still launching investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Ryan’s House will never impeach Trump — and if we don’t elect a Democratic majority next year, the Trump administration might even survive to see a second term in power.

I call on all my fellow Democrats running in 2018 to make the case against this president, to be willing to hold him to full account, and to use impeachment as a central rationale in our argument to Americans.

This needs to be a rallying cry for Democrats.

Donald Trump isn’t on the 2018 ballot — but his presidency must be. We must be willing to tell voters, “Yes, I will vote to impeach Donald Trump and restore honor, respect and decency to the presidency.”


Mary Barzee Flores, a Democratic candidate for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, is a former circuit court judge and federal public defender. President Barack Obama nominated her the federal bench.

Winners and losers emerging from St. Petersburg’s municipal elections

Tuesday’s slate of elections in St. Petersburg certainly provided a list of winners and losers, and I’m not just talking about candidates. Here’s a list of the real winners and losers emerging from the city’s general elections. Please let me know if I missed anyone.

The Biggest Winners

To the victors, go the spoils. Right, Mr. King?

Kevin King and Ben KirbyKriseman‘s top City Hall staffers earn six-figure salaries in their positions. Had Kriseman lost, it is highly doubtful these two (fathers of young children) would have found other jobs that pay nearly as well. Now they’re set for another four years. No wonder King was spotted at Kriseman’s victory party drinking champagne right out of the bottle (or is that just an interesting craft beer?). The scoreboard is the best reward.


Tampa Bay Rays — The baseball team invested heavily in Kriseman’s campaign because it knows the Mayor would be more flexible than Baker when it makes its desire to move to Tampa official. And now with Kriseman in office for four more years and a viable stadium site in Hillsborough, the Rays need to come to the plate with their plans for the future.

Rene Flowers — If there was one local pol who is all-in for Kriseman, it is Flowers, the African-American School Board member who had served with Kriseman on City Council. It’s no coincidence that when during the primary she said it was time for Kriseman to take the gloves off, the campaign began to perform better.

Vito Sheeley and Ella K. Coffee – The pair, both longtime Democratic operatives, were central figures in the Kriseman campaign outreach to St. Pete’s African-American community, a voting bloc that again proved essential to his win, as it had in every mayoral race in the past couple of decades. While Kriseman received a boost from higher turnout downtown, he also enjoyed improved margins throughout several South St. Pete neighborhoods, including Pinellas Point and Lakewood Terrace – faring much better with the city’s black community than in the primary.

Jacob Smith — When he was first hired as campaign manager, there were more than a few raised eyebrows given his W-L record (he was Hillary Clinton‘s organizing coordinator in Michigan). But in both the primary and general election phases of the mayoral race, Smith’s field program delivered for Kriseman. Smith’s phone should be ringing off the hook today with calls from Democratic candidates looking for top-notch staff.

Jeff Copeland — If there is one tried-and-true fact about St. Pete politics, it’s that Copeland — the African American community advocate and businessman — is always on the winning side.

Want to know who’s gonna win an election in St. Pete? Ask Jeff Copeland.

Tom Eldon — Served as pollster for the Kriseman campaign. Described by many as low-key but very bright. Eldon knows Tampa Bay well and provided critical strategic counsel to help Kriseman win a second term.

Omar Khan — Came in at the end of the general election campaign to guide the Kriseman campaign down the final stretch. Made critical decisions on messaging and spending. Khan is quickly becoming one of the pre-eminent political consultants working in Florida politics.

Charlie Crist and Darryl Rouson — Two of Kriseman’s most visible cheerleaders stuck by Kriseman through thick and thin, rallying volunteers and serving as surrogates on the campaign trail. Don’t think for one second Crist isn’t enjoying sticking it to his one-time friend Rick Baker.

Darden Rice — This column isn’t supposed to be about the candidates who won because, well, that’s obvious. However, Rice makes it onto the list because with Kriseman not being able to run again and her winning re-election in a landslide, Rice is — right now — the default front-runner of the 2021 mayoral race.

Susan McGrath — Had Kriseman lost in the primary or the general, the knives would have been out for the leader of the Pinellas Democratic Party. Instead of that happening, McGrath is now part of a vanguard determined to turn Pinellas blue.

Sally Boynton Brown — As she did during the primary, the executive director of the FDP worked behind the scenes to turn a local race into a statewide affair. Kriseman was able to count on Democrat volunteers from throughout the state, and it was Boynton Brown who organized much of that. With the win in SD 40 and St. Pete, Florida Democrats are excited about their prospects heading into 2018.

David Jolly — No, he doesn’t like seeing his fellow moderate Republicans lose, but with Baker’s defeat and Jack Latvala‘s currently diminished influence, the former U.S. Rep. turned MSNBC star is close to being the top dog of Pinellas politics.

Chris Steinocher — Somewhere along the way, the president of the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce got cross-wired with Rick Baker, who came to view the ‘Tampa guy’ as ineffectual. Steinocher never publicly chose sides, but he made sure there were plenty of ribbons for Kriseman to cut. Maybe now the Chamber will have a better relationship with the Kriseman administration, although I’m not sure the hiring of Matt Lettelleir will help that.

LGBTQ community — No single bloc of St. Pete voters was more fearful of Kriseman losing than the LGBTQ community. That’s why it was extremely active on social media, where it was highly critical of Baker. The whole “backwards Baker” slogan really took root with the city’s LGBTQ residents. Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith summed it up this way, “Kriseman’s stellar record stands in stark contrast to Baker who as mayor treated us with indifference and contempt. We made sure people remembered that in the primary, and we will be back in November.”

St. Pete Polls — The local polling firm was criticized after the primary election for underestimating Kriseman, but Matt Florell and Co. rebounded nicely in the general election. It’s final survey of Kriseman vs. Baker pegged the race at Kriseman +2; the final result was Kriseman +3. Such accuracy should reassure gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, who St. Pete Polls says is way ahead of the rest of the Democratic field. (By the way, my final prediction was Kriseman winning with 51.5% of the vote. I apologize for being a tenth of a percentage point off.)

Gregory Wilson — Ho-hum, another win (he was Brandi Gabbard‘s general consultant) for one of the most competent and creative operatives in Tampa Bay politics. There are flashier consultant picks, but if I were a Democrat running somewhere in Tampa Bay, Wilson would be my first choice (sorry Meagan and Tom).

Meagan Salisbury and Tom Alte — Our affinity for Wilson aside, Blue Ticket Consulting was a big winner Tuesday, consulting on the campaigns of both Darden Rice and Gina Driscoll.

Pinellas Realtors OrganizationJoe Farrell and Co. are probably still sending mail to voters on behalf of Brandi Gabbard, their preferred candidate in the District 2 race. The Realtors’ muscle was the deciding factor in that race.

Charlie Frago — During the primary, we paired the Tampa Bay Times reporter with his colleague, Mark Puente, in the winners’ column. But even Puente will tell you Frago has been a one-man army during the general election. Contra its opinion section, the Times should be proud of Frago’s comprehensive coverage. I really can’t think of an aspect of the campaign Frago didn’t cover.

The rest of the local media — In addition to Frago, several other local journalists have done a solid job covering the mayoral race. Kudos to the ex-truck driver, as well as Evan Axelbank of Fox 13, Kate Bradshaw of Creative Loafing, Gypsy Gallardo of Power Broker Magazine, Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Anne Lindberg of Tampa Bay Reporter, our own Mitch Perry, and 10 News’ Noah Pransky, who was out with a blog post discussing the implications of Kriseman’s victory minutes after the results were official.

Deborah Clark and the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office — The SOE was on her game Tuesday night, posting election results within minutes of polls closing. And with a record turnout in St. Pete — 66,872 ballots were cast — the elections supervisor’s office also deserves credit for its role in encouraging residents to vote.

Vinoy Club members (like me) — Thanks, St. Pete voters, for letting us build a new parking garage.

The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment. On Tuesday, The Vinoy won approval to build a one-story parking garage as part of that project, in place of eight existing tennis courts. The tennis courts would be moved on top of the garage, which would hold 270 parking spots.

Mixed bag

Black voters — For a few months every four years, the rest of the city pays attention to the issues of black residents. Candidates visit churches. Ministers make endorsements (which is an odd phenomenon to many white voters, who would run from their church if their parish priest told them how to vote). Reporters write about how winning the black vote is critical. Blah, blah, blah. By December, the politicians will have moved on and the folks who need help the most will be mostly forgotten.

Bill Edwards — Sure, the bazillionaire was one of Baker’s biggest donors, and it’s no secret that he and the Kriseman administration don’t always see eye-to-eye, but you know what, being a bazillionaire means never having to say you’re sorry. After Edwards makes a couple of key donations to Kriseman priorities, all will be well. That said, Major League Soccer coming to the ‘burg increasingly looks like a long shot.

Ed Montanari — Undoubtedly, the soft-spoken City Councilman is hurting for his dear friend, Rick Baker, but now he’s the leader of the loyal opposition. There’s real power in that.

Jim Rimes and Nick Hansen — You were expecting to see these two Baker consultants in the losers column, but I genuinely don’t believe they belong there. These two veteran operatives were responsible for making the trains run on time for the Baker campaign and in that, they did their job. The campaign’s infrastructure was sound — more than enough money was raised, more than enough volunteers were recruited, etc. — it was the strategy (Baker made the fatal mistake of being his own general consultant), the message, and the political environment which doomed the former mayor.

Kanika Tomalin — The Deputy Mayor is still the Deputy Mayor, but the shine came off Tomalin during this campaign. We’ll never know what really happened at MISRED, but there’s no disputing that the incident was one of the ugliest moments of Kriseman vs. Baker. For some reason, Dr. Tomalin has long been regarded as above the nitty-gritty of electoral politics; this campaign has proved that’s no longer accurate. The question going forward is: does Tomalin run for Mayor in 2021?

Nick Janovsky — The hyperactive political consultant lost — badly — in the District 2 race, but the Realtor and equality activist does in such spectacular fashion, I’m hard-pressed to ding him with an L. Still, couldn’t he have told Barclay Harless to smile more.

The Biggest Loser

Tim Nickens and the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It was only four years ago that Nickens and Daniel Ruth won Pulitzer Prizes for their editorials that encouraged Pinellas County to resume adding fluoride to the drinking water. Those editorials were so effective because they were so in tune with the mood of the community as evidenced by the fact that voters ousted two county commissioners who opposed fluoride in the water. That was then; this is now. Kriseman’s victory is the first time in St. Pete’s modern history that a candidate won a mayoral election without the Times’ recommendation. But this just wasn’t a case of not picking the winner. Again and again, Nickens’ poison pen went to work for Baker, shocking many longtime readers. That Nickens left the Democratic Party over this election speaks to how needlessly dramatic the editor was throughout the campaign. One former Times editor said Nickens and Co.’s behavior is a “major embarrassment (that) reflects the diminished state of the paper.”


Adam Goodman — A Democratic elected official asked me last night when was the last time the Republican ad man won an election that wasn’t an expected win. Actually, it wasn’t that long ago (Jolly’s special election in 2014), yet there are many politicos in Tampa Bay and Tallahassee who say the game has passed him by. His work for Baker was a game-changing disaster. During the primary phase, the ads Goodman cut were only ineffectual; in the general election, the ones with the hipster motifs were cringe-worthy and counterproductive. If Baker can blame anyone other than himself for his loss, it’s Goodman.

Goliath Davis — Is it really a surprise that the controversial former police chief is no longer a gatekeeper to the black vote? Baker made a tactical mistake relying so heavily on Davis’ advice, but then again Baker has always been blind to Davis’ faults. It’s time for Go to go.

Deveron Gibbons — One of Baker’s chief surrogates in the African-American community, Gibbons was hoping for, but not banking on, Baker returning to City Hall. Fortunately for Gibbons, he’s diversified his power base since losing his own mayoral run in 2009.

Wengay Newton — Baker’s most prominent African-American elected official now has a big bright target on his back going into the 2018 elections where he’ll face Vito Sheeley, one of Kriseman’s most visible surrogates. Pinellas Democratic Party chair Susan McGrath says Sheeley received four donations Tuesday night at Kriseman’s victory party.

Brock Mikosky — I genuinely like Brock and the swagger he imbues the campaigns he works on, but he was Justin Bean’s general consultant, so he has to make it into the L column. Bean’s loss paired with Yvonne Fry’s, um, upset in the special election last month in House District 58 have made it tough Fall for Mikosky. Except him and wife recently had their first child, and that’s all that matters.

Pinellas GOP — St. Pete is a Democrat-leaning city, so of course, Donald Trump’s not going to play well in the ‘burg. But Tuesday’s results go beyond that. There’s something in the water around here, so much so that if I’m Jeff Brandes or Chris Latvala, two Republicans running for re-election in moderate districts, I start putting as much distance between me and the president as possible. Pinellas Republicans, at least the establishment wing of the party, also need to think about this: Baker’s done, and Jack Latvala is on the ropes. Those two men, along with the late C.W. Bill Young, have dominated local politics for nearly two decades. What will the scene look like without them?

Alan Suskey — As Baker’s most visible supporter in Tallahassee, my best friend will have to explain to the capital crowd why the once-inevitable Baker lost (just blame it on Goodman). Then again, part of Suskey’s brand is his loyalty, so sticking by his friend Rick Baker only reinforces the idea that Suskey’s someone you want with you in a foxhole.

Leslie Wimes — Few people in St. Petersburg know who Wimes is, but she’s something of a personality on Twitter and such, where she was one of Baker’s most visible Democrat supporters. We’re still waiting to hear from Wimes about a campaign she’s backed that ended up winning. I’m also hearing that Nikki Barnes, a member of the national DNC who backed Baker, may be removed from her posts due to her violating her loyalty oath.

Whoever designed this blatant example of cultural appropriation …

Rick Baker faults Rick Kriseman for partisan politics in St. Pete elections

Since launching his re-election bid this spring, Rick Kriseman‘s political strategy was a call to keep the city’s forward momentum by keeping him in charge, as opposed to going back to the past with Rick Baker, who served as St. Petersburg mayor during most of the aughts.

As for Baker, the former mayor made the race a referendum on Kriseman, saying that over the past four years, the city has lost its mojo, and only he can return competence to City Hall.

How do we make neighborhoods better in the city? How do we get Midtown back on course? How do we fix the Pier? These are questions that Baker says are part of his “Baker Blueprint” that he’ll start implementing in January if he wins Tuesday night.

Kicking off his campaign on the steps of City Hall almost exactly six months ago, Baker predicted the Kriseman camp would go hard on his GOP credentials because “They have no record that they can run on. They have no successes.”

Half a year later, Baker insists he’s been proven correct.

“If you look at his direct mail pieces, if you look at Rick Kriseman’s TV ads, it’s all about national partisan politics. I think that’s a mistake,” Baker told a group of reporters after he voted Tuesday morning at The Church of the Beatitudes. “I think it’s a mistake to try to import the poison of the national politics that have divided our country to St. Petersburg.

“That’s not how we move our city forward. We move it forward by focusing on what’s best for the city of St. Pete.”

Baker later added that such an emphasis on partisanship wasn’t “healthy.”

“It’s not proven to be healthy for America, and I certainly don’t think it would be healthy for St. Petersburg.”

For his part, Kriseman tried to tie Baker with GOP standard-bearer Donald Trump, who lost by a substantial amount to Hillary Clinton in the presidential election a year ago in the ‘Burg. When Kriseman ended up capturing 70 more votes than Baker in the primary on Aug. 29, several analysts said that the Trump factor was a crucial element that dragged Baker down.

GOP Florida strategist Rick Wilson has labeled Trump “the 800-pound Klansman in the room.”

Baker’s campaign went negative two weeks ago when they introduced the past legal issues of Kriseman’s chief of staff, Kevin King, into the contest. “Sunshine,” a 30-second ad, focused on King’s 2001 arrest as a then-22-year-old substitute teacher in Pinellas County School District for propositioning a teenage girl for sex.

On Tuesday, Baker said he has no regrets about the ad.

“That goes directly to the question of judgment, whether it’s who you’re hiring as your chief of staff, or closing up a sewage plant and dumping out a billion gallons of sewage, or whether it’s doing a Pier plan that everybody voted against, yet still doing it going forward,” Baker said, adding, “I’m proud of the campaign we ran. I don’t think I would change it.”

Baker’s media scrum was his last scheduled public appearance before he attends his campaign watch party Tuesday night at the 400 Beach Seafood & Taphouse.

Kriseman’s public schedule has him at a variety of spots throughout the day, including a couple of long sessions at his campaign headquarters in the Euclid-St. Paul neighborhood. He’ll be at Nova 535 for a watch party Tuesday night.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

Martin O’Malley hits the phones for Rick Kriseman in St. Pete

Rick Kriseman‘s campaign received another high-profile boost as Martin O’Malley made a trip to campaign headquarters early Monday evening.

A visit by the former Maryland Governor and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate was yet another indication of how serious the Democratic National Committee and Florida Democratic Party are in seeing Kriseman get re-elected as St. Petersburg mayor next week.

O’Malley has been making campaign appearances across the country for Democrats, and he says that a year after the county chose Donald Trump to lead the nation, Democrats have never looked better to Americans.

“People are in a much more thoughtful and reflective mood than a year ago, and so I think that people have come to appreciate that we actually have to make our government work, and I think that’s going to work toward the benefit of Mayor Kriseman in this race,” O’Malley said to reporters.

O’Malley’s appearance comes three days after another Democratic Party star, former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro, made his own trek to campaign for Kriseman. And they both came after Barack Obama and Joe Biden offered rare endorsements to Kriseman in this local race.

“They’re supporting me for what I’ve been able to do in St. Petersburg and what I’ve been talking about for the future for St. Petersburg,” Kriseman said about the endorsements from the former president and vice president, specifically referring to helping launched Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in the city and his strong vocal support for the Affordable Care Act.

“I think that’s why you’re seeing those folks and the governor being here and speaking on my behalf because we share common beliefs and values in a direction that we want to see not only the city, the but the state and country go,” said the mayor.

O’Malley was the third wheel to the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders battle for the Democratic presidential nomination last year before dropping out of the race after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucus. He had been considered a leading progressive star after serving eight years as Maryland governor and the eight previous years (1999-2007) as mayor of Baltimore.

“When I served on city council I traveled to Baltimore to see some of the innovative things that this man was doing for his community and try to learn from them to bring those back here to St. Pete,” Kriseman told the room full of supporters taking a break from phone banking to listen to the mayor and O’Malley.

As mayor, O’Malley introduced data-driven government reporting and management programs such as CitiStat and StateStat. Kriseman said that he’s tried to take the things that he learned from O’Malley and implement some of them in St. Petersburg.

Mayoral opponent Rick Baker and the editorial page of the Tampa Bay Times criticized Kriseman for nationalizing the local, officially nonpartisan race, but O’Malley would have none of it.

“Mayor Kriseman believes climate change is real and he’s certainly not a supporter of Donald Trump,” he said. “Those are pretty good distinguishing features between him and his opponent here.”

Meanwhile, as the mayor was hobnobbing with a former presidential candidate, Baker quietly informed the press via a photo emailed to reporters he has been endorsed in next week’s election by all five living former mayors of St. Petersburg: Don Jones, Bob Ulrich, Dave Fischer and Bill Foster.

“I am excited and pleased that Rick Baker is offering his experience and service to again lead our city. St. Petersburg has been an important part of my life for over 60 years and Rick Baker’s years as mayor were exceptional,” said Jones, who served as mayor from 1967-1969.

“The mayors who have helped build the great city we enjoy today care deeply about our future.  Having their support means the world to me” said Baker.

Five living former mayors of St. Petersburg: Don Jones, Bob Ulrich, Dave Fischer and Bill Foster … and mayoral candidate Rick Baker.
Mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman and former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley (via: Kim DeFalco).


(O’Malley photo: Kim DeFalco).

Al Franken to fundraise for Bill Nelson at Alex Sink event

When Alex Sink throws a fundraiser, one thing is assured – it will attract some of the most prominent Democrats on the political scene.

In December 2015, the former Florida chief financial officer hosted Hillary Clinton in an event at her Hillsborough County home supporting the former Secretary of State’s presidential bid.

Sink, a 2010 Democratic candidate for Florida governor, was a  longtime Clinton supporter.

In November, Sink brings a similar star power for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s re-election bid, this time with a luncheon fundraiser with special guest Sen. Al Franken. The event will be held Saturday, Nov. 18, at Sink’s Thonotosassa home.

Franken, who has represented Minnesota in the Senate since 2009, is also well-known as a comic actor, writer and liberal political activist.

First elected in 2008 in a tight victory over incumbent Republican Norm Coleman — with a recount that lasted months — Franken won re-election in 2014. He was a longtime writer and performer on Saturday Night Live and hosted The Al Franken Show, a nationally syndicated, political radio talk show. Franken also is the author of six books, four of which were political satires blasting conservatives.

Nelson is seeking a fourth term in 2018; while he currently faces no opposition, it is likely Florida Gov. Rick Scott will enter the Senate race.

Suggested donation to the event is $250; to co-host the reception is $1,000, $2,700 to host and $5,400 to chair the event.

To RSVP or for more information, contact Christina Diamond at christinadiamond@nelsonforsenate.com or 850 363-3424.

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