Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch is airing his first television ad of the cycle in his bid for St. Petersburg Mayor.
Titled “Roots and Responsibility,” the ad will air online and on television during the Tampa Bay Lightning game Wednesday night.
That’s a prime slot for local viewers as the Lightning take the ice at 8 p.m. with the chance to eliminate the New York Islanders in Game 6 at Amalie Arena and move on to the Stanley Cup final against either the Las Vegas Knights or Montreal Canadiens.
The ad highlights Welch’s lifelong roots in St. Pete and touches on his experience both as a Black resident affected by the Tropicana Field development and as a County Commissioner affecting change for his constituents in South St. Pete.
“I grew up working in my granddad’s wood yard near Tropicana Field before he was forced to move for the interstate,” Welch opens in the ad. “My wife and I have raised our family here. For 20 years as a County Commissioner, I’ve been in the trenches, getting results on homelessness, affordable housing, and making our neighborhoods safer.”
“As Mayor, I’ll make sure that Trop redevelopment is about opportunity and equality for all,” he continues. “We all know St. Pete is a great city. It’s time to make our progress great for everyone.”
The Tropicana Field topic is timely. The next Mayor will be tasked with determining how best to redevelop the 86-acre site, with or without the Tampa Bay Rays.
When construction began on Tropicana Field, originally The Florida Suncoast Dome, in the ’80s, it displaced a thriving Black community that lived and worked in the area. Now, the Black community wants redevelopment to include plans that will help them reclaim the prosperity lost when the stadium was first erected.
The interstate Welch mentions in his ad, I-175, was constructed to the south of the Trop site in the late ’70s into the ’80s and also displaced Black families. Today, it serves as an unofficial barrier between the thriving downtown area and the poverty-afflicted portions of South St. Pete in the Campbell Park neighborhood. Some urban design advocates want the highway razed to eliminate the decades-old bifurcation it created.
Welch is currently the front-runner in a crowded mayoral race. A total of eight candidates are running, as is a ninth write-in candidate. Welch led the most recent poll in the race, released Tuesday, with 20% support. Three candidates were separated by less than one percentage point behind Welch in the poll at 12-13% support — City Council members Darden Rice and Robert Blackmon and former City Council member Wengay Newton.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 24 Primary Election will advance to the Nov. 2 General Election.
Welch’s lead in the race put him at the center of attacks during the first mayoral debate of the cycle Tuesday, with daggers flying from both Newton and Blackmon.
The candidates weighed in at length on the Trop site and the future of the Rays. Welch also highlighted his desire to ensure that any plans moving forward address systemic inequities in the Black community.
Welch is the second candidate to air an ad during a Lighting game. Restaurateur Pete Boland, a candidate who claimed just 2% support in the most recent poll, has aired an ad in two games so far.
July 2, 2021 at 1:37 pm
With his county government experience, and community involvement, Commissioner Welch is the candidate best prepared to effect change from day one. Cool motorcycle, too!
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