St. Petersburg City Council Member Robert Blackmon submitted a letter of resignation, effective Jan. 6, according to city records.
The resignation likely means Blackmon intends to run for Mayor, a rumor that has been brewing for months. However, Blackmon has not officially filed for the seat as of Monday morning.
“It has been an honor to serve as City Council member from District 1,” Blackmon wrote. “Pursuant to Florida Statute 99.012(2) & (3), I hereby tender my resignation from the Saint Petersburg City Council effective January 5, 2022, at 11:59 p.m.”
That statute states that “no person may qualify as a candidate for more than one public office, whether federal, state, district, county, or municipal, if the terms or any part thereof run concurrently with each other.”
According to the city’s candidate handbook, Blackmon had until Monday to file his resignation, which requires candidates whose current terms would overlap with their new seat, if elected, to file their resignation 10 days before candidate qualifying. That begins June 3. Blackmon filed his letter Sunday.
Because he filed his resignation within that window, his District 1 seat will be up for election to fill the remaining two years of his term, under Florida’s resign to run law. Had Blackmon waited until Tuesday, his resignation would have been effective immediately, or by the qualifying deadline, and an appointment to fill his vacancy on the City Council would have been required.
There is only one Republican candidate in the race for Mayor, Realtor Vincent Nowicki. Nowicki, however, lacks Blackmon’s name recognition and elected experience, giving Blackmon a lane in the hotly contested race as a viable conservative option.
Though the race is nonpartisan, two Democrats — City Council member Darden Rice and former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch — have long been considered the front-runners in the race.
Blackmon is likely to pick up support from the Rick Baker wing of St. Pete’s political class, many of whom supported him in his initial run for office in 2019.
Blackmon’s entrance in the race would be a welcome relief among conservative voters, giving them an option likely more viable than Nowicki, who is relatively unknown in the area and has thus far raised just $22,000 for his bid, a pittance compared to both Rice and Welch who cracked six figures long ago.
His entrance, should it happen, also likely spells bad news for Wengay Newton, a former City Council member who also served briefly in the Florida House of Representatives before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Pinellas County Commission last year.
Like Blackmon, Newton had been a part of the Baker sphere of influence, lending his name as a Democratic supporter for the Republican former Mayor. Any support he hoped to get from that group would likely either shift to Blackmon or be split significantly. Newton has thus far failed to raise the types of funds needed to win in a citywide race, bringing his viability as a candidate into question. As of the end of April, Newton had brought in just $17,000.
If Blackmon runs for Mayor, it would also set up an interesting dynamic between himself and Rice. Rice backed Blackmon in his 2019 City Council bid, angering many of her Democratic supporters. Rice has also collected significant cash from Baker world, lending to the question as to whether that support might dry up with Blackmon in the race.
Blackmon faces several challenges in a hypothetical mayoral race. He’s getting a late start compared to both Rice and Welch. Rice began raising funds in early 2019 and has brought in nearly $650,000 as of the end of April between her committee, Friends of Darden Rice, and her official campaign account.
That’s a big funding gap to fill with just three months before the Primary Election on Aug. 24.
St. Pete also leans blue in voter registration, making a path for a Republican, even in a nonpartisan race, difficult. Democrats hold a nearly 40,000 voter advantage with 89,644 registered Democrats and just 50,298 Republicans. There are another 48,343 no-party-affiliated candidates, meaning there is a path, however.
Blackmon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his resignation or intention to run for Mayor.
Candidates are vying to replace incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is leaving office due to term limits.