Rick Kriseman trounces incumbent St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster in election listen11/06/13 Janelle Irwin
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St. Petersburg will have a new mayor come next year. Tuesday voters elected former state representative Rick Kriseman over incumbent Bill Foster. During an election party just outside downtown, Kriseman thanked supporters.
"I’m feeling very blessed right now and I’m excited about making St. Pete a better place."
Just minutes after polls closed at 7, showed Kriseman with an early ten point lead over Foster, all but sealing the deal on his victory. Kriseman said he’ll get to work on day one, which is January 2nd.
"I want to focus on bringing jobs into this community."
Wednesday morning, Kriseman announced in a press conference at City Hall that he is appointing a transition team. And during his concession speech last night at Sylvia’s in midtown St. Pete, Foster said he will work with the mayor-elect in any way he can.
"I will meet with him sometime this week and we will work on the transition…she’s all yours don’t break it."
Foster also said he will halt plans to hire a new police chief to replace Chuck Harmon who is retiring. Issues with the St. Petersburg Police Department in the impoverished midtown area resounded during the campaign as African-American leaders called on an end to the agency’s car chase policy and a return to community policing in low-income and minority neighborhoods. City Council member Wengay Newton was one of six city council members to endorse Kriseman. He thinks new leadership will bring swift change to some police policies that have become controversial.
"... I think the new executive is going to have the ability to pull some of that back
Hundreds of people gathered at Nova 535 to celebrate Kriseman’s victory. The buffet space inside the building was a roar of chatter and laughter, while outside supporters swayed to live music. As a cover of Ella Fitzgerald’s At Last played in the background, Former Chicago resident Gail Dempsey said that voters made the right decision for St. Petersburg.
Also celebrating at Kriseman’s party was Pinellas County congressional candidate Alex Sink. She responded to criticism that Kriseman, a fellow Democrat, ran a campaign on partisan issues in what the city charter rules a non-partisan race.
"I don’t think people are paying that much attention to the partisan nature of politics right now."
Following his speech, incumbent Bill Foster told reporters his political career is over because of partisan politics. Foster said his 2009 campaign wasn’t based on party issues.
" … this will forever change the way mayor’s races are done in St. Pete … from here on out, it’s forever partisan."
Despite the loss, Foster told his supporters that he wasn’t upset and was looking forward to being a husband and a father again – even if he’s a husband now on the hunt for a new job. The 100 or so supporters cheered him on, but some didn’t share his complacency at the defeat. Leslie Gross who grew up with Foster called the loss heartbreaking.
Also decided last night in St. Pete were four city council races. Incumbents Karl Nurse and Jim Kennedy both retained their seats defeating activists Sharon Russ and Lorraine Margeson. Newcomers will replace two term limited council members. Darden Rice defeated Carolyn Fries for Lesley Curran’s district four seat.
Rice’s victory was the narrowest of all four city council races. She defeated Fries 55% to 45%. Replacing Jeff Danner in district eight is Amy Foster who defeated home remodeler Steve Galvin in a landslide 67%-33% victory.