Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is endorsing St. Pete City Council member Ed Montanari in the House District 60 race.
Both Republicans with experience in City government, Baker’s tenure at City Hall predates Montanari’s, but they’re aligned in political circles.
Montanari is running for the St. Pete-based House district in hopes of unseating incumbent Democrat Lindsay Cross. Baker noted Montanari’s collegial nature in his endorsement, and made reference to his own vision of a “Seamless City,” which is the name of a book Baker authored.
“Ed Montanari is the proven leader we need representing us in Tallahassee,” Baker said. “Ed understands that you have to build a consensus to truly have a Seamless City that is affordable and safe for everyone.”
The St. Pete Republican is likely an ideal candidate in the battleground district where Democrats carry a slight voter registration advantage with just under 41,000 voters compared to just over 36,000 Republican voters, according to the most recent voter registration data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.
Montanari is known for his calm demeanor, quiet disposition, thoughtful consideration of policy and moderate approach to governance. Baker was known for similar qualities.
“It is great to have the support of my friend, former Mayor Rick Baker,” Montanari said. “St. Petersburg continues to thrive as a result of Baker’s transformative leadership and policy-making, from empowering our local businesses to expanding our waterfront park system.”
Montanari added that he was looking forward to “continuing our work together protecting the prosperity of our great city.”
Though Baker has long been out of political office, the former Mayor is still beloved in the community, including the city’s Black community, and will likely be a valuable tool as Montanari whips support in the blue-leaning swing district.
“As an Air Force veteran, he’s never backed down from getting the job done for the families he serves,” Baker continued in his endorsement. “I live in House District 60, and I would be proud to call Ed Montanari my state Representative. He has my full endorsement in his campaign for Florida House.”
Cross won’t be an easy incumbent to defeat. She won her seat in the House by 8 percentage points over GOP candidate Audrey Henson in a year where Republicans were overwhelmingly successful in Florida, leading to supermajorities in both legislative chambers. And like Montanari, Henson was a moderate Republican.
Cross has served as a likable lawmaker who, even in disagreements, has maintained good relationships with Republican colleagues.
And while Montanari will undoubtedly catch up through a deep well of GOP donors, Cross also has a healthy head start on fundraising, with nearly $108,000 banked since mid-December. Of that, Cross maintains about $94,000. She has another approximately $27,000 cash-on-hand in an affiliated political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward.
Montanari officially entered the race on Oct. 13 and has not yet posted any fundraising data. He’s proven himself an effective fundraiser, with more than $150,000 banked in his 2019 City Council campaign, a large sum for a local race.
The Republican Party of Florida offered significant support to Henson two years ago in hopes of flipping the seat red — it was formerly held by Democrat Ben Diamond — and is likely to continue that support with Montanari.