Despite the official imprimatur of the St. Petersburg Times (who endorsed Bill Foster yesterday), a new poll commissioned by the Times and Bay News 9 yesterday shows Kathleen Ford leading Bill Foster, 39% to 34%, 16 days before the election.
The poll was based on interviews with over 600 people and was taken last week. From the story:
Ford, a Democrat who would become the city's first female strong mayor, fared better among white residents, those over 55 years of age, Democrats, independents and women.
Foster, a Republican, scored higher with black residents and Republicans.
The candidates, both lawyers and former City Council members, fared equally among males and voters 54 and younger.
Ford, 52, has ruffled feathers with her frequent criticisms of City Hall and plain speak.
Her supporters overwhelmingly said they valued her knowledge of the issues and policy ideas. Fifteen percent cited a dislike for Foster as the most important reason they were supporting Ford.
It's still a long way away, but this news has to be somewhat of a shock to the St. Pete establishment, which is firmly behind Foster.
The story appeared on the same day that the paper endorsed Foster.
Declaring "on substance and style" that he's their man, the editorial makes their case for him on the issues, but really takes off on Kathleen Ford when it comes to style.
The paper says Ford pits neighborhoods against each other, has been reckless in some of her public comments, and has been "heavy-handed"' in commenting on Foster's support for Creationism.
But the kicker is in the conclusion:
Ford creates confrontations and attacks City Hall as though she is more intent on avenging her last election loss than in setting a course for a brighter future.
Meanwhile, though it was strictly anecdotal and in a group of mostly Ford supporters, I found no backlash to Ford after the Times story on Saturday, which quoted her as making a comment on Bubba The Love Sponge's radio show last week on the "HNIC" theory on black leadership (referred to as "Head Negro in Charge," or perhaps another N word to be inserted for Negro).
Ford made the comment when asked by Bubba about Goliath Davis, the former police chief and current deputy mayor. Ford has said she was not referring to Davis, but about the idea of a designated leader for the black community (and said she was quoting noted African-American scholar Cornel West).
The two candidates were in midtown Saturday morning for a debate at the Royal Theatre, speaking to an audience made up almost exclusively of black voters. From interviews I conducted afterwards (and also based on crowd reactions) it seemed that most of the 50+ people in attendance in the theater were Ford supporters, and the Times story seemed to carry little traction, at least with this group.
But it wasn't a very smart statement. At least according to the above listed poll, Foster is doing better with the black community than Ford. But again, based on what I saw and heard on Saturday, it seems that bloc is still up for grabs.
Meanwhile today the Times announced their choices for City Council. To no surprise they like Jim Kennedy in District 2, Leslie Curran in District 4, Steve Kornell in District 5, Karl Nurse in District 6 and Jeff Danner over Leonard Schmiege, who the Times calls "passionate but on the wrong side of important issues."