Rick Kriseman officially announces candidacy for Mayor of St. Petersburg

The former City Council member plans to be more proactive than incumbent Bill Foster.

An attorney who became involved in politics when he joined the St. Petersburg City Council in 2000 (where one of his colleagues was Bill Foster), Kriseman left local politics in 2006 and won a seat representing St.Petersburg in the state Legislature for six years. He opted not to run for re-election last fall.

Although he played coy until recent days, most observers thought he was destined to run for mayor when he decided not to continue in Tallahassee (his House seat is now held by Republican Kathleen Peters).

Since announcing his candidacy, Kriseman has frequently used the word "Vision." When asked what he means, he said it comes down to how one sees the role of the mayor.

"Mayor Foster has said that he believes that the role of the mayor is to get out of the way. To me the role of a mayor is to do more than get out of the way, the roll of the mayor is someone who helps encourage economic development in the city and create a climate where businesses want to come here and locate," he said. "My vision is to be much more proactive and much less reactive."

When asked what he would like to first accomplish if he wins, Kriseman said the two biggest issues the city is contending with: the stadium standoff with the Tampa Bay Rays, and The Pier, which is scheduled to close in May before it's razed and reconstructed as "The Lens."

The baseball standoff continues in part because Mayor Foster has refused to allow the team's management to talk to Tampa officials about a possible stadium outside of St. Petersburg — a request that was rejected again last week by the City Council.

Kriseman wasn't specific about what he would do differently, "The idea of kicking the can down the road for 15 years isn't going to do it." Foster's position has been that with 15 years left on the team's use-agreement with the city, what's there to talk about?

When it comes to The Pier, the new challenger said there have been too many "mixed signals" from Foster regarding his stance on the issue that has divided the city. He said mixed signals have led to a somewhat dysfunctional relationship between the Council and the mayor, "and that's part of the problem."

"Are we going to have the petition process. Are we not going to have the petition process?" Kriseman rhetorically asked about what he said was Mayor Foster's tentativeness on the issue. He didn't offer his own vision, as a petition drive by the group StopTheLens is working toward a sure ballot initiative.

Kriseman's official declaration to run comes less than a week after a new poll found Mayor Foster underwater for the first time in his tenure with a 49-51 percent in public approval.

For progressives, it doesn't get much better than Rick Kriseman for mayor. Perhaps that's why he mentioned fighting crime when asked about what else he hopes to accomplish if he leads City Hall.

Kriseman now joins Paul Congemi as the only two people to officially announce they are challenging Mayor Foster. In 2001 and 2009, the primary field was prodigious (nine people ran in 2001 to replace David Fischer). An extremely popular Rick Baker faced only token opposition in 2005 (his challenger was Ed Helm). Other possible challengers include Foster's main opponent in 2009, former City Council member Kathleen Ford, who is the public face on the first group to gather signatures to stop the razing of The Pier.

  • Kriseman explains his vision on the steps of City Hall

Some mayors are so successful in their first term, they receive nominal challengers when they face re-election — like Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio in 2007, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1997, and St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker in 2005. Other mayors are more seriously challenged.

That will be Bill Foster's fate in 2013.

At 11:30 on Monday morning, Rick Kriseman and an entourage of family members entered St. Petersburg's City Hall — with a gaggle of photographers trailing — to file the paperwork needed to run for mayor. Kriseman then addressed a handful of reporters from City Hall's steps.

"I'm looking forward to this being a campaign of ideas, about policy and about vision, and giving the voters hopefully a very clear distinction between what I'd like to see happen here in the City of St. Petersburg and the direction that Mayor Foster has in mind," he said.

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