With the final vote tally in the St. Pete mayor's race barely a week away, the candidates are making their final appeals to voters.
At his Euclid-St. Paul area campaign headquarters Monday night, Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is trying to fend off a challenge from former Mayor Rick Baker, rallied volunteers alongside former Maryland Governor/presidential contender Martin O'Malley.
O'Malley, also a former Mayor of Baltimore, cited the Kriseman administration's accomplishments on the new police station, the St. Pete Pier and putting a dent in the city's crime rate as evidence that the incumbent mayor has the city's best interests at heart.
"This is a decision for you, the people of St. Petersburg, a city that is on the move; a city that is inclusive, that is welcoming, that faces the future with the optimism that this guy has and is a reflection of what he sees in the people he serves,” he said Monday afternoon. “There is a movement the world over, the rise of cities; that in order for cities to be places that are inclusive, successful and lift up people, they need leadership. Leadership like the leadership Rick Kriseman has brought to this city over the last few years.”
While city races are not supposed to be partisan, party involvement on the part of both candidates has factored heavily into the mayor's race. The O'Malley appearance is further evidence of this, given that he has been the third prominent Democrat to campaign with Kriseman in less than a week. Baker, meanwhile, though a Republican, doesn't frequently campaign with other Republicans given how heavily St. Petersburg leans Democrat. He has, though, benefited heavily from donations from monied Republican individuals and political action committees.
As other Kriseman supporters have done, O'Malley on Monday stressed a familiar Kriseman campaign theme: forward, not backwards. That's an allusion to the city's progress on equality, climate resilience, crime reduction and other issues in recent years.
“I don't now your city very well, but I know it well enough to know this: the people of your city always choose to move forward, and not back. And I believe with your help, that's what all of you here in St. Petersburg are going to do in just nine short days, once you reelect your terrific, outstanding mayor,” he said.
In his brief remarks to supporters, Kriseman referred to current Police Chief Anthony Holloway, a popular figure whom he hired in 2014. Baker has not fully committed to keeping Holloway on board if he's elected, though he has been largely complimentary of the chief.
Kriseman reiterated his support for Holloway Monday.
“We've got a great police chief here who's making a difference and with a Kriseman administration in a second term, we have a commitment to keeping that police chief as our police chief and continuing to address quality of life issues and to being an inclusive community,” he said.
He told the volunteers that had gathered — many of whom had spent much of the afternoon phoning voters — to keep up their efforts, which underscored how close the race is.
“We know what happens when people don't go out and vote. We've already had one bad November; we don't need a second one,” he said.