Poll: Robert Blackmon solidifies No. 2 spot in St. Pete Mayor’s race as Darden Rice continues to drop

Ken Welch is enjoying a comfortable lead.

Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch has grown his lead in the St. Petersburg Mayor’s race to nearly six percentage points, with nearly 31% support. St. Pete City Council member Robert Blackmon trails with just over 25% support.

The poll puts both men in a good position to secure a spot in the top-two General Election on Nov. 2, if the results translate to the Aug. 24 Primary in less than three weeks.

The latest survey results, commissioned by Florida Politics through St. Pete Polls, show a marked improvement for both Welch and Blackmon, who posted 23% and 22% support, respectively, in the previous poll released July 23.

But it’s a backslide for City Council member Darden Rice, who, as a once front-runner for the seat, dropped to just 16% support in the most recent poll, from 17% in July.

Worse than her dip in support is Rice’s failure to gain ground, even as her top competitors did. Welch grew his support from late July to early August by nearly 8 points, while Blackmon gained about 3 percentage points.

The results come after Rice faced serious backlash from voters for several campaign mailers, and comments in a candidate forum defending them, tying Welch, a Democrat, to former President Donald Trump, citing endorsements and contributions from prominent local Republicans. Critics pointed to Welch’s track record as a reliable Democratic vote on the Pinellas County Commission before leaving office to run for Mayor. They also argued the claims were steeped in hypocrisy, as Rice has accepted money from numerous Republican donors and, two years ago, herself endorsed a Republican for City Council, Blackmon.

Since then, Rice has missed several candidate forums and canceled some media interviews.

The latest poll results suggest that, despite offering an apology for the mailers, her campaign is having a difficult time recovering from the blowback.

If Rice manages to recover in the 18 days before Election Day and secures a spot in the top two for the General Election, the poll shows her with just one path to victory, through Blackmon. In a hypothetical matchup there, Rice posted 39% support to Blackmon’s 30%. Still, in that scenario nearly 32% of respondents were undecided.

In a matchup against Welch, the survey shows him leading with 47% support to her 25%, with 27% undecided.

Welch also carries a significant lead over Blackmon in a hypothetical General Election matchup, with 44% support to Blackmon’s 28%.

Of the other five candidates polled, only former City Council member Wengay Newton landed double-digit support, at just over 10%. Restaurateur Pete Boland, despite running a credible campaign, is still sitting at just 4% support, with business owner Marcile Powers managing just over 1% and USF Student Michael Ingram and community activist Torry Nelson failing to even crack 1%.

Interestingly, demographic breakdowns in the poll show Welch is maintaining a significant lead in the race despite what many people expected, that he is splitting the Black vote with Newton. There, Welch posted 39% support to Newton’s 32%. Blackmon posted just 6% among Black voters while Rice claimed just 4%.

And Democrats are significantly favoring Welch over Rice, despite her attempts to posture herself as the more reliable Democrat, with 42% backing Welch and just 22.5% supporting Rice. Welch is also performing well with a cross-party appeal, claiming support from 14.5% of surveyed Republicans. Blackmon, himself a Republican with nods from several GOP officials, leads among his party’s voters with 56% support.

If Rice were elected Mayor, she would be the first woman to hold the office since the city switched to a strong Mayor form of government and only the second in history. Yet she’s failing to collect support among female voters, garnering just 14% in the most recent poll. Both Welch and Blackmon perform better among women, at 30% and 24% support, respectively.

The candidates are running to succeed incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is facing term limits.

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].


  • W. Hips

    August 9, 2021 at 11:22 am

    One of the candidates, Pete Boland, is not reporting all donations on his campaign treasurers report. I think that’s important information for voters to know, especially about a man with his financial endeavors.

  • E.G.

    August 12, 2021 at 4:05 am

    “ …he is splitting the Black vote with Newton.”

    There is no such thing as “the Black vote.” While we as black people undoubtedly find community based on cultural and innumerable lived experiences we share, the time is long overdue for both candidates AND journalists to realize that black voters are not a monolith.

    Like you, we are individual voters with our own individual ballots to cast and the intelligence to make priority-based decisions.

Comments are closed.


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