A look ahead at 2014 Florida elections
As the dust settles in St. Petersburg after an election that resulted in progressive sweep, voters are looking ahead to two other important races – the Pinellas County seat in Congress and the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. During a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon Thursday, members bounced questions about the elections off two prominent local reporters.
Lobbyist and former Bill Young staffer David Jolly announced Thursday he will run for Young’s old seat in Congress. He could face Democrat Alex Sink if they both make it through the primary. Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith said even though Jolly is the only Republican running so far, it’s not likely to stay that way.
"He's not a household name. He's got a lot of experience in Washington. He's got a lot of connections where he's going to raise a lot of money, but I do think we're very likely to have a Republican primary. You're going to see a lot of pressure from Washington because this is the race everybody's watching. You almost never have a district that is truly competitive like this one. Let alone a district that has no incumbent running."
Smith said former Clearwater mayor Frank Hibbard may throw his name in the hat as well as State Senator Jack Latvala. The primary for the congressional special election will be on January 14th with the general election on March 11. Matt Florell owns a company called St. Pete Polls which released a poll Wednesday about the Pinellas Congressional race.
"It showed Alex Sink the winner against everybody. 51-52% against 3 different Republican challengers; Jolly, Hibbard, and Brickfield."
Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni, who announced yesterday he’ll be running for reelection in 2014, said whoever is elected will need to make veteran’s affairs a priority. He added, the winner will also need to work with the county to combat homelessness.
"There's a lot of money available and we need to use it to get these people off the streets. The County Commission along with the sheriff's office, we found in a couple of places Project Hope and St. Pete Safe Harbor, those are both things that have made the homeless population less, but it's still really great."
Republican Governor Rick Scott is also facing reelection next year. Progressive South Florida Democrat Nan Rich has been in the race for months and this week, former Governor Charlie Crist announced that he will run as a Democrat. Smith expects the campaign to be an extraordinary lesson in attack ads.
"We'll see what tens of millions of dollars of ads. By the time it's over Charlie Crist will vote for Rick Scott, he won't vote for himself."
Questions from members of Tiger Bay directed at the Times political editor as well as Bay News 9’s Al Ruechel also centered on the future of St. Pete now that Rick Kriseman will replace Bill Foster in City Hall. St. Pete Poll’s Florell is also a vocal opponent to red light cameras which St. Pete uses to monitor dozens of intersections. He said the program could see some changes after Kriseman takes office on January 2.
"A couple of times during candidate forums Kriseman said that right turn on red enforcement had anything to do with safety. The crash numbers back him up on that so we might see in January a removal of enforcement of right turn on red which is over a third of the citations and what makes the program profitable."
One of the things Kriseman campaigned on was putting more focus on public education in the city. Even though that doesn’t fall under a mayor’s purview, Pinellas Classroom Teacher’s Association president Kim Black said she thinks Kriseman will make a difference through things like after school programs and partnerships with the school district.
"It's not just up to the school or the teachers or the administrators and the parents. It takes an entire community to raise our students and hopefully have them stay here. We want them to become productive citizens here in our own community. I think that's why we supported Rick Kriseman for mayor because we know that he will work with our schools and help us to provide the services that we need."
Kriseman beat incumbent mayor Bill Foster by more than 10 points – 56 to 44%. Smith, from the Tampa Bay Times, said he was surprised by the wide margin, but gave his two cents on how the Democrat did it.
"Rick Kriseman just really had the secret sauce. This is the first time where we didn't have an insurgent candidate. Somebody that made a lot of people, whether it was Kurt Kurtzinger or to a lesser extent Bill Kline or Dennis McDonald that made people, Kathleen Ford, that made a lot of people anxious, a lot of the business community anxious, sometimes said some nutty things that raised eyebrows. Kriseman didn't do any of that that's why () the Chamber for instance, they endorsed Foster but they were pretty passive about it."
Also newly elected this week to city council were Darden Rice and Amy Foster. They will replace Lesley Curran and Jeff Danner who were term limited out of office. Incumbents Karl Nurse and Jim Kennedy also held onto their seats this election against activists Sharon Russ and Lorraine Margeson.