Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch landed a bevy of new endorsements in his campaign to be the next Mayor of St. Petersburg.
The list is a bipartisan slate of current and former elected officials and community leaders who have worked with all of the leading mayoral candidates, but offered their nod to Welch.
Endorsers include Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard as well as mayors from Pinellas Park, Dunedin and Gulfport.
“Ken Welch is such a strong and reasonable voice for St. Petersburg and the region. I endorse Ken because I want to work with him, I know his passion will continue to serve St. Pete and Pinellas County, we have work to do, and Ken will get it done. And this is coming from a Republican,” Hibbard said of Welch, a Democrat.
Welch is running to replace current Mayor Rick Kriseman who is leaving office because of term limits. All of the race’s leading contenders, which includes St. Pete City Council member Darden Rice and former City Council member Wengay Newton, are Democrats.
Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also offered his support.
“I know what it takes to be and effective Mayor, and there is nobody better prepared than Ken Welch,” Buckhorn said. “Building on the success of Mayor Kriseman, Ken Welch is the only candidate in this race that values regional relationships and is prepared to write St. Petersburg’s next chapter.”
Other endorsers include Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury and Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson.
Former Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats is also backing Welch.
“Ken Welch has always been a thoughtful and committed advocate for public safety and professional law enforcement,” Coats said. “He is a strong leader firm in his principles, but also a consensus-builder who knows how to get things done. He will be an outstanding Mayor of St. Petersburg.”
Other current and former elected officials throwing their name behind Welch include Pinellas County Clerk of the Courts Ken Burke, former Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, former Pinellas County Property Appraiser Pam Dubov, and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.
Backers also include business leaders, including Bob Devin Jones, founder and artistic director for [email protected] in St. Pete.
“Beyond Ken just being a great guy, I love his even, measured, knowledgeable way of governance,” Jones said. “To make this a more perfect union, the education piece is crucial, and Ken has the knowledge, capacity, and passion to really take a burgeoning community not just to the next level , but to the next level that benefits the entire community.”
Martha Lenderman, a local community advocate for mental health, also joined in support.
“l have worked with Ken Welch for many years in various roles, and he is one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. He’s a man of his word, a man of his conviction, and he doesn’t run away from any issue. Ken questions everything and then makes the decisions based upon facts. He will be an outstanding Mayor,” Lenderman said.
The latest round of endorsements adds to early nods from some prominent community leaders including Congressman Charlie Crist, Pinellas County Commissioners Karen Seel, Rene Flowers, Charlie Justice, Pat Gerard and Janet Long, former Congressman Jim Davis, and former Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stuart.
Two members of the existing City Council, who would serve under a Welch administration, have also offered support — Lisa Wheeler Bowman and Deborah Figgs Sanders. Former City Council members Charlie Gerdes and Connie Kone, as well as former Pinellas County Public Defender Bob Dillinger, civil rights advocate and member of the “Courageous 12” Leon Jackson and St. Petersburg Housing Commissioner Stephanie Owens have also offered endorsements.
“I am humbled by the support of so many well-respected civic leaders,” Welch said. “St. Petersburg is a great city that will soar even higher when we work together on inclusive progress for every neighborhood in our community.”
The endorsements could be a big deal for Welch with polls showing a tight race in the August Primary Election. A St. Pete Polls survey put Rice narrowly ahead of Welch and Newton, with the two men in a statistic dead heat. In a hypothetical match-up between Rice and Welch in the November General Election, Welch so far has an edge.