Richard Eldridge is not your typical city council candidate

When asked about the state of the city, Eldridge said he supports Bill Foster. "He cut $100 million from his budget in his first term. That's no easy task. I mean, if Congress could do that, we'd be walking on water right now."

He believes city employees deserve a raise because it's been more than four years since they've enjoyed a hike in pay.

Though he admitted that he may suffer with voters because of his lack of name recognition, don't you dare call him an underdog. "I don't want to say that I'm an underdog because that sounds kind of negative," he said. But he later added, "they (his opponents) have what appears to be an advantage by getting in early."

Although it's not the easiest gig, Eldridge said he enjoys driving a cab, especially because of the people he meets — but not everybody. "Some people are not so great. I've had horrible paying jobs that I didn't like. This is actually a bad paying job that physically I enjoy doing."

Regarding the Pier, Eldridge wants "private citizens" to take over its operations. "I don't think the city could do anywhere near what a private company could do," he said, adding that a private company would have a profit motive. "People go the Pier because maybe they're driving along the interstate and they see a sign for it. I don't think anyone comes all the way out from Iowa to visit the St. Petersburg Pier. Although they may come out for the beaches."

At Monday night's League of Women Voters debate, Eldridge came out strongly for the legalization of marijuana, citing studies on the National Institute of Health's website that include the benefits of cannabis in fighting cancer. "Just Google cannabis and it will show you all the peer-reviewed studies that this is definitely a beneficial plant and we need it."

This week marks the first time the candidates in St. Petersburg's District 4 race have engaged in a formal debate prior to their primary election in late August. While Darden Rice, David McKalip and Carolyn Fries all have some sort of following in the city, newcomer Richard Eldridge is not well known.

The 51-year-old former Marine entered the contest late last month, and admitted he never met his primary opponents until Monday when engaging in two different candidate forums.

He said his performance on Monday night was particularly spotty, and that he was fatigued after working almost non-stop during the long Fourth of July weekend (he's a cab driver who usually sleeps during the day and works at night). "I know I'll do better the next time," he said, adding that some subjects — like sewage — were not on his radar prior the League of Women Voters forum.

"Sewage is not a big issue for me," he said.

Eldridge was born in Monticello, Ind. Before he settled down in St. Pete he also lived in New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and then after joining the Marines, Hawaii, Virginia and California. He arrived in Tampa in 1994 and St. Petersburg in 1996.

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