Darden Rice reaches 100K voters through grassroots efforts

Darden rice
Outreach includes 40,000 phone calls, 50,000 text messages and 11,000 door knocks.

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice has made more than 100,000 voter contacts in her bid for Mayor, her campaign announced Monday.

That outreach includes about 40,000 phone calls, 50,000 text messages, and 11,000 door knocks through community canvassing. Outreach is targeted to likely voters in the Aug. 24 Primary Election, now just 15 days away.

“I’m so proud of my incredible team for meeting this amazing goal,” said Rice, who also has a background in community organizing. “This campaign has been committed since day one to talking with St. Petersburg residents about their concerns and their hopes for our great city, and we’re looking forward to keeping it up — right until 6:59 p.m. on Election Day.”

That time is significant because polls close at 7 p.m.

“Our organizers, fellows, and volunteers have been working tirelessly to meet voters where they are to share Darden’s vision for St. Pete since February,” said Rice’s campaign Organizing Director Conner Jure. “But this program has also been focused on helping our neighbors. We’ve done neighborhood cleanups, collected food and hygiene products for the St. Pete Free Clinic, and more to give back to the city we love.”

Rice is running in a heated race to replace outgoing Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is term-limited out of office after this year. She’s currently polling third in a crowded field of candidates, trailing former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and fellow City Council member Robert Blackmon.

Rice’s outreach is perhaps at its most crucial point as her polling numbers showed a decline last week. The numbers showed Rice losing ground to both Blackmon and Welch after facing controversy over mailers sent to voters tying Welch, a Democrat who served as a delegate for now-President Joe Biden, to former President Donald Trump. The mailers cited endorsements for and donations to Welch’s campaign and affiliated political committee from local Republicans. Rice herself has accepted contributions from Republicans, some the same as Welch’s donors, and two years ago endorsed Blackmon, a registered Republican, for City Council. Critics saw the mailers as an unnecessary and hypocritical hit piece.

Still, Rice has time to gain back some momentum, with years of strong name recognition. And she has the bank account to do it. Rice raised more than $280,000 for her official campaign by the end of July, with about $32,000 left to burn. She raised another $407,000 for her political committee, Friends of Darden Rice, with about $320,000 still on hand as of the end of June.

That’s more than both Blackmon or Welch have raised, and she has more money to play with heading into the home stretch ahead of the municipal Primary.

Welch has raised nearly $230,000 for his official campaign, with about $21,000 left on hand at the end of July. His political committee, Pelican PAC, raised just shy of $201,000 and had about $83,000 still on hand at the end of June.

Blackmon has raised nearly $125,000 for his campaign, as of the end of July, with a little less than half still on hand. His committee, Prosperous St. Petersburg, brought in just shy of $153,000 as of the end of July with about $61,000 still on hand.

If elected, Rice would be the first woman to serve as Mayor under the city’s strong-Mayor form of government and only the second in the city’s history. She’d also be the first openly LGBTQ Mayor in the city’s history, the second in the region.

Rice has nods from several prominent groups and elected officials, including EMILY’s List, Equality Florida Action PAC, Ruth’s List Florida, LGBTQ Victory Fund, Roadmap for Progress, and LPAC.

Sen. Annette Taddeo. Rep. Anna Eskamani, St. Pete City Council member Gina Driscoll, former St. Pete City Council members Jim Kennedy and Virginia Littrell, and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner have also offered their support.

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]


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