Recently filed St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Ken Welch will host a campaign kick-off event featuring U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist this Thursday, his campaign announced.
The virtual event, which will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., will include other political players from around Pinellas County, including Welch’s former colleagues on the County Commission Rene Flowers, Pat Gerard, Charlie Justice, Janet Long and Karen Seel.
The hefty list of Pinellas County leaders joining Welch for his campaign kick-off shows an impressive foundation of support as campaigns for mayor get off the ground. The group endorsed Welch earlier this week.
Welch served two decades on the Pinellas County Commission, entering office in 2000 and leaving late last year after forgoing reelection to seek the mayoral seat. On the Commission, he represented one of the city’s densest minority districts in South St. Petersburg in the Lakewood Estates and Greater Pinellas Point area.
Welch, who filed to run about a week ago, is the fourth candidate to jump into the race to replace outgoing Mayor Rick Kriseman.
While the race is non-partisan, mayoral candidates’ political leanings are always known and always factor into the race.
So far no Republicans have officially announced their intent to run, pitting Welch against fellow Democrats Darden Rice and Wengay Newton, a City Council member and former City Council member, respectively. A no party affiliated candidate, Michael Ingram who is a USF student, is also running.
While there are some rumored potential Republican candidates, such as City Council members Ed Montanari and Robert Blackmon, the race has for months been expected to be a matchup largely between Welch and Rice, who both have built substantial political capital over their years in public service to the community.
When Newton, who also served as a state Representative, entered the race it created a dynamic that isn’t guaranteed to help Welch, but could.
Rice had been raising funds from some Republican donors, the same cohort of whom Newton has ties, setting up the potential for a split vote scenario.
Still, with months left to go before the Aug. 24 municipal primary, this year’s mayoral contest is already shaping up to be highly competitive.
The top two vote-getters in the August race will advance to the General Election in November.