St. Petersburg City Council member Amy Foster is endorsing former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch for Mayor, his campaign announced Monday.
“Ken will be a great Mayor for St. Petersburg, because he is a leader with who listens, collaborates and thinks deeply about how to make this city even greater. He is a unifier who knows how to bring people together, and that’s what St. Petersburg needs today with so many big issues before us,” Foster said in a statement.
Foster is the third sitting City Council member to endorse Welch over their colleague, City Council member Darden Rice, in the race to succeed current Mayor Rick Kriseman. Kriseman is not seeking reelection due to term limits. Other City Council endorsers include Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Deborah Figgs-Sanders. Former City Council member Charlie Gerdes has also offered his support.
Foster and Rice serve together on Council as the first two openly gay members and, if elected, Rice would be the first openly gay Mayor in the city.
Foster’s endorsement for Welch, combined with what is now approaching support from half the board, is a big boost for the former Commissioner’s campaign in a race that will be highly competitive. Both Welch and Rice are seen as the likely frontrunners in the race, which also features former City Council member Wengay Newton and a handful of less prominent candidates.
The latest poll in the race, taken in early March by St. Pete Polls, shows Rice narrowly leading with 15% of the vote among likely voters, which Welch and Newton trailing slightly at 14% each.
But, the same poll showed Welch with a strong lead in a hypothetical matchup between himself and only Rice. That shows Welch may only need to worry about besting Newton in the August Primary Election, in which the top two vote-getters will advance to the November General Election where a Welch-Rice runoff is likely.
Still, the poll showed the race very much still in the air, with 43% of respondents still undecided in a Primary Election and 46% still undecided in a hypothetical General Election between Welch and Rice.
Foster’s endorsement adds to an already robust, bipartisan list. Welch, Rice and Newton are all Democrats, though the race is technically non-partisan. Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, a Republican, has already offered his support. Other Republican supporters include Pinellas County Clerk of the Courts Ken Burke, Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel, former Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark and former Pinellas County Property Appraiser Pam Dubov, among others.
Like Seel, other former colleagues from the Pinellas County Commission have also backed Welch, including Pat Gerard, Charlie Justice and Janet Long. Welch also received a high-profile nod from U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.