Poll: Most St. Pete voters undecided in mayoral race; Ken Welch has slight edge

There's a lot of campaigning to do, but an early look at the race puts Welch in front.

A new poll shows the race for St. Petersburg Mayor to be wide open with an overwhelming majority of voters still undecided.

A Fox 13 poll by Matt Towery’s InsiderAdvantage shows 67% of voters have yet to decide who they’ll support in the August election. The survey asked about filed candidates Darden Rice, Ken WelchWengay Newton and two hypothetical candidates, Robert Blackmon and Deveron Gibbons.

Rice, Welch and Newton are Democrats, while Blackmon and Gibbons are Republicans, though the race is technically nonpartisan.

Of the bunch, Welch, a former Pinellas County Commissioner, had a slight edge with 12% support. He was the only candidate or potential candidate to break double digits. Newton, a former state Representative who also previously served on St. Pete City Council, came in second with 8% support.

Rice, a current City Council member, trailed with 7%. Blackmon, who also serves on City Council, received 6% support while Gibbons, a St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees member, received statistically no support.

The poll offers an early look at a field of current and potential candidates in a race that will likely garner millions in political spending over the coming months.

While the high level of uncertainty surrounding candidates leaves plenty of paths for all, it’s an early boon for Welch, who is largely considered a first-tier candidate, but yet the relative underdog to Rice and her broad citywide name recognition.

Rice has also so far outraised Welch by far. The two are the only candidates who have publicly available campaign finance reports available. Rice has raised nearly $225,000 in her Friends of Darden Rice political committee as of the end of December. Publicly available records show Welch has raised early $87,000 in his Pelican PAC committee as of the end of January. On Tuesday, Welch said his campaign had raised another $57,000, a campaign haul that would outpace any previous fundraising among either candidate.

Candidates are running to replace current Mayor Rick Kriseman, who faces term limits. The poll did not include three candidates who have filed for the race, including University of South Florida St. Pete student Michael Ingram, Realtor Vincent Nowicki and Kenwood Organic Produce head Marcile Powers, all expected to be third-tier candidates in the race.

Neither Blackmon nor Gibbons definitively acknowledged they would run, but each are rumored to be considering it. Other mentioned names have included Sen. Jeff Brandes, who has so far said he won’t run, and City Council member Ed Montanari, both Republicans.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


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