The Pinellas Realtor Organization is throwing its weight behind Ken Welch for St. Petersburg Mayor, the group announced Thursday.
The group supports local Realtor members through real estate programs, products and services and provides legislative advocacy on issues affecting the real estate industry.
“The Pinellas Realtor Organization (PRO) prides itself on supporting the best candidates running for elected office. That’s why today we are proud to endorse and recommend Ken Welch for the next Mayor of St. Petersburg,” said PRO Board President Glen Richardson.
“Through a member only candidate screening committee we reviewed questionnaires and interviewed both remaining candidates. Based on Ken’s extensive and accomplished public service, his respect for property rights, and commitment to affordable housing initiatives, we look forward to working with him for the next four years.”
Welch, a former Pinellas County Commissioner, faces City Council member Robert Blackmon in the Nov. 2 General Election to replace incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.
The group’s endorsement may come as a surprise to some considering Blackmon’s background as a real estate investor whose top priority is affordable housing.
Welch, however, is also running to improve access to affordable housing and, though a progressive candidate for the city’s top job, has a track record of working with real estate interests to protect private property rights while also considering the needs of constituents who value common sense property regulation.
“PRO has a tremendous track record of supporting the most qualified and prepared candidates in these races. The support of their membership is humbling. I look forward to working with them on affordable housing solutions and ensuring that we create more housing opportunities for families, seniors, and young professionals, while protecting St. Pete’s neighborhoods and character,” Welch said.
Welch is the current front-runner in the race, finishing the Aug. 24 Primary a full 11 percentage points ahead of Blackmon. In the most recent poll, taken just days before the Primary, Welch led Blackmon in a hypothetical General Election with 53% of the vote to Blackmon’s 29%, a 24-point deficit.
The Realtor endorsement comes one day after City Council member Darden Rice endorsed Welch, bringing with her potentially the more than 9,000 voters who backed her in the Primary. She lost the race, finishing third with just shy of 17% of the overall vote.
While the race is nonpartisan — candidates’ political affiliations don’t appear on the ballot — it’s no secret where they align. That puts Blackmon at a statistical disadvantage.
Among the city’s nearly 190,000 registered voters, more than 88,000 are Democrats while fewer than 50,000 are Republicans, according to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.