St. Petersburg mayoral candidates Ken Welch and Robert Blackmon appeared back-to-back on WMNF Community Radio’s The Scoop Tuesday, making last minute pitches to voters on Election Day.
History will be made Tuesday no matter which candidate wins. Welch would be the first Black Mayor in the city. Blackmon, who is White, would be the youngest.
Welch holds the edge going into the General Election. The latest polling shows him leading with 53% support to Blackmon’s 36%. But Blackmon told the Scoop’s Janelle Irwin Taylor, also of Florida Politics, he’s not worried because polls have been wrong before.
“If things are off in the polls, it’s not the pollsters fault,” Blackmon said. “It’s the fact that turnout on these municipal elections is so low, it’s just based on who shows up and who puts in a vote. And, you know, I don’t know, but I’m looking at the turnout today and it’s looking pretty good.”
But it’s more than polling Blackmon has to worry about. As of noon, turnout hovered around 26%. That’s well below the 2017 turnout of nearly 40%. The race is nonpartisan, but the split between the GOP’s Blackmon and Welch, a Democrat, has been clear in the race.
Democrats hold a significant edge over Republicans in St. Petersburg and are turning out in greater numbers. By noon, more than 50% of votes cast came from Democrats. The GOP accounted for nearly 31% and NPA voters were just under 16%.
Welch also talked about low turnout on the show. He said it might be time to consider moving municipal elections to even-numbered years to take advantage of higher voter turnout in higher-profile races. That, however, would push municipal choices way down on the ballot. Today, the mayoral race is at the top of the ballot.
But Welch said the city needs to do more to get people out for races that impact their lives the most.
“I’ve been near the bottom of the ballot as a County Commissioner and we didn’t see a big drop off,” he said. “It’s always concerned me. We’re talking 30% turnout for a mayoral election and council members and charter amendments. Those are some pretty weighty issues.”
Polls are open until 7 p.m. Voters can cast in-person ballots as long as they are inline by 7 p.m.