After a hard-fought contest, Rick Kriseman pulls off a win

The incumbent beat former Mayor Rick Baker by more than three percentage points.

click to enlarge Surrounded by family and supporters, Kriseman thanks his supporters - JOSEPH RYAN
Joseph Ryan
Surrounded by family and supporters, Kriseman thanks his supporters

It's official: Mayor Rick Kriseman will serve a second term.

After about six months spent trying to fend off an aggressive challenge from former Mayor Rick Baker, Kriseman bested his opponent with 51.64 percent to Baker's 48.36 percent haul. 

Kriseman won by 2,191 votes, a margin that dwarfs his 70-vote primary win.

It's unclear as yet what made the difference. Whether it was shining light on Baker's refusal to disassociate himself from Donald Trump, strides made in improving the city's wastewater infrastructure, or the city's response to the effects of Hurricane Irma, it worked, despite a barrage of negative campaigning by Baker in the final weeks.

The mood was decidedly jovial at Nova 535, where the Kriseman team held its Election Night Watch Party (just as they had on Election Night in 2013).

As the returns, precinct by precinct, made it apparent Kriseman was going to be victorious, the crowd got more boisterous, at times chanting "four more years" in unison.

After Baker gave his concession speech, Kriseman thanked his supporters for their tireless efforts.

As he had on the night of the Aug. 29 primary, he took the stage to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."

“I'm so proud to be your mayor," he said. “We call ourselves the Sunshine City for a reason. It's as figurative as it is literal. We embrace light and love here. And we drive out darkness and division.”

Supporters were making calls and knocking on doors until just before polls closed Tuesday, given how close polling had suggested the race would be.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin thanked them for helping rally enough votes to deliver Kriseman a second term as mayor.

“St. Pete, this election has been long and hard. We've been through things that tested our reserve and our willingness to serve," she told the audience moments before Kriseman took the stage. “We knew that if we stayed the course, that if we remained focused, that if we stayed strong, that we would move forward together,”

After conceding to Kriseman, Baker addressed supporters at 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, a popular downtown seafood restaurant.

For Kriseman, congratulations poured in from faraway supporters as well.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, issued a statement heralding the outcome.

"I'm thrilled that the people of St. Petersburg re-elected Mayor Kriseman," he said. "The people are the boss and they've told us they want a vibrant, inclusive, and progressive Sunshine City. Although this race was tough, I'm thankful that we had two candidates who both sincerely love St. Petersburg."

Democratic candidate for governor and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who had visited Kriseman's headquarters to make phone calls for him in the campaign's waning days, also weighed in.

"The people have voted to keep moving St. Pete forward! Mayor Rick Kriseman's work to tackle big problems with big solutions earned him re-election tonight," she said in an emailed statement. "I look forward to working with him as a partner in restoring our promise to public schools, defending our clean land and water, and building an economy that works for every Floridian. We rallied together to win in St. Pete, and we are going to keep this momentum going through November 6, 2018. "

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