And the St. Petersburg mayoral award goes to …

Worst audio technicians: Bay News 9. Thoughout the night, mics kept cutting in and out and at times the director’s in-ear instructions could be heard bleeding across the broadcast. The cable station gets points for doing the telecast, but it also ran a crawl blaming technical difficulties on the electrical storm that swept across the city during the debate.


Best overall performance: Larry Williams. Not enough to finish in the Top 2, but he clearly drew laughs and connected, even on the could-be-schmaltzy story about his daughter being “accosted” by an aggressive panhandler.


Worst performances in a clutch situation: (Tie) Scott Wagman and Deveron Gibbons. Both of these guys needed big nights to create some excitement among the voters and appear to be deserving of the frontrunner tag. Neither scored. Wagman came off horribly, too strident, and his knitted brow throughout made him look angry. Gibbons had no charisma, no connection to the voters, spoke haltingly and never showed any fire. Plus, his pre-packaged platform sound bites sounded like it.


Best indifference: St. Petersburg voters. Fewer than 300 people (one estimate put it at 150) voters showed up for the forum. Everyone was at the Rays game, which was being held right down the street. Much more important to see the Rays try to make up ground on Boston and Texas in the hunt for a wild card spot than decide who the next mook in Rick Baker’s office will be.


Best performance by a prevent defense: (Tie) Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster. The two poll frontrunners were good enough to stay out of trouble, swatted away a few barbs tossed at them and calibrated their answers while remaining true to their core issues. Ford continued with her in-depth studies of the budget and other micro-detailed issues without seeming like a wonk or a micro-manager. And Foster has stayed away from social conservatism so well during the campaign that, the next day, he landed the vaunted Times endorsement despite being an advocate for teaching “intelligent design” in schools and being against gay rights.


Best loving embrace of the Rick Baker administration: Jamie Bennett, who surely is not scoring points outside of City Hall with his continuing insistence that a vast majority of residents believe the city is heading in the right direction, and his answer that highly paid officials in the city do 2-3 jobs each and earn their pay.


The “Johnny Cash called, and he wants his concert outfit back” Award: Paul Congemi, who dressed all in black for the televised event. Where is Tim Gunn when you need him.


Best easy answer: The candidates were asked if they did not win, who they would want to see win instead. This is normally a very tough answer, as it makes you tip your hand when you are trying to kiss all other nine asses in the field so that if you make the runoff, they and their supporters will swing your way. Two candidates flubbed it by refusing to play the game: Jamie Bennett said, “no,” and Scott Wagman named Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. But there was one easy way out on this one: Choose a noncontroversial, experienced candidate who has no chance of finishing in the top two but whose support in the runoff will really mean something. Choose Larry Williams. And three candidates — Kathleen Ford, Bill Foster and Deveron Gibbons — did just that. For the record, Bill Foster was the second choice of John Warren and Richard Eldridge, while Ed Helm said he would opt for Kathleen Ford as his second choice. Paul Congemi cast his choice for Jamie Bennett.


Best ambush: After Jamie Bennett again insisted St. Pete is on the right track, and that he has unfairly been a target and blamed for all of its problems over last 8 1/2 years, the forum moderators went to the results of a Bay News 9 instant poll that showed 54 percent of those on Bright House Networks watching thought the city was worse off than it was eight years ago. Torpedo amidships.



Best question with confusing answers: Should the city seriously consider consolidating services [with other local governments]?


Best who cares?: The candidates were asked how they would deal with the Pier. My answer is let it slip into the waters of Tampa Bay.


Best truth-telling at all costs: Super longshot candidate Paul Congemi was asked if he supported curbside recycling. “I’m not interested in this subject, curbside recycling.”



Worst grooming error: Ed Helm shaved his mustache for the forum. We kinda liked it. Made him look even more sinister.

The St. Petersburg mayoral race (that clears its first hurdle next Tuesday in the primary election) would clearly work better as either a reality show or an awards ceremony. After watching the big mayoral forum last week sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9, I’m going with awards ceremony. The envelopes, please:

Best embrace of St. Pete Pride: Candidates Jamie Bennett, Kathleen Ford, Ed Helm, John Warren, Deveron Gibbons and Scott Wagman all said they would sign a city proclamation for gay pride.

Ronda Storms Award: For refusing to agree to recognize gay pride events, Paul Congemi, Bill Foster, Larry Williams and Richard Eldridge.

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