Democrat candidates out in full force at St. Petersburg forum

While there was almost unanimous agreement on every topic (stopping the lens, eliminating red light cameras, focusing on renewable energy, and making the Rays honor their lease at Tropicana Field), the diversity amongst the candidates showed in how they approached each answer.

One of the best examples was the candidates' responses to the issue of at-risk youth. Foster (who made it clear that she was not related to current Mayor of St.Petersburg Bill Foster) used her past experience in youth development to praise the potential of out of school programs. Galvin emphasized the need for alternative education and opportunities for those who are unable to qualify for college to be trained for occupations. Davis pushed for a stronger crime watch program and also felt that trade school was an important opportunity. Duensing spoke while on the verge of tears in the telling of his experiences in teaching poetry to a teenager involved with gangs, ending his response by reminding the audience that they were all special.

When asked why they decided to run, the responses were similarly varied. Duensing cited his experience in education and the need to help others. Davis decided to run in response to the City Council's decision to move closing times to 3 A.M. Foster cited her work in teaching girls to pursue non-traditional careers and thus leading by example. Galvin told a story of how he bought and restored homes in his neighborhood hit by the recession and wanting to create that vision on a city-wide level.

Controversy was limited, with only Galvin's slip of tongue in reference to the “shitty” outsourcing recycling duties and Duensing's choice of using his final statement to quote Shakespeare creating any type of response beyond polite support.

The second debate featured Rick Kriseman, a former member of the Florida House of Representatives, and Paul Congemi, who ran for mayor in 2009.

Kriseman echoed the District 8 nominees on most of his stances, but took a more pragmatic view on the red light cameras, emphasizing the need for safety. He also made a point of developing the current resources for business in St. Petersburg, referencing USF St. petersburg's marine laboratory, as an alternative to trying to lure outside companies.

Congemi arguably stole the show with his opening statement, in which he lifted a Bible above his head and recited Leviticus 18:22, causing the audience to become visibly disgusted and made several leave. All of Congemi's points focused primarily on the “common man” and spoken primarily in rhyme, and either decried most questions as tools of industry and greed or simply said he wasn't informed enough to give a proper answer. His response to the question of at-risk youth was hinting at the existence of a conspiracy of corruption that went to the very top of the St. Petersburg Police Department. The audience began to jeer him with a particular distaste over the constant use of the phrase “common man”.

Despite the rainy weather, more than 80 people signed on the guest list. Those who spoke outside of the debate format included District 5 council member Steve Kornell, Rene Flowers of the Pinellas County Schoolboard, and Darden Rice, running for membership of City Council District 4.

Michael Fox of the St. Petersburg Democratic Club praised the forum as one of the best he had ever attended and hoped that those in attendance will now feel more comfortable in donating their time and money in ensuring their candidate's victory.

  • Rick Kriseman

Wednesday evening the St. Petersburg Democratic Club held an open forum aimed at introducing constituents to the Democratic candidates running in the August 27 elections.

The highlight of the event was a debate between all four candidates in the running for the City Council District 8 membership. Robert Davis, Alex Duensing, Amy Foster and Steve Galvin took turns responding to questions from the audience.

Scroll to read more Columns articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.