Democrat Rick Kriseman not running for re-election in Florida House; undecided on future in politics

04/26/12 Janelle Irwin
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Democratic State Representative Rick Kriseman announced this week that he will not seek another term in the Florida House of Representatives. Despite speculation that he may be considering a bid for mayor of St. Petersburg, the 12-year politician says he’s not making any decisions yet.

Kriseman said this past legislative session was the first time his family really expressed their distaste at his leaving for an extended trip to Tallahassee. Running for mayor would alleviate that, but Kriseman said he’s still not ready to make a decision.

“At this point in time I have made no decisions about what I’m doing. I don’t know if I’m even going to run for office again. I need to take some time, kind of decompress, work at my law office, enjoy my family.”

And if Kriseman does have a future in politics, he said he’s not sure which office would afford him the opportunity to do the most good.

“If I make the decision I do what to run again, decide how can I best serve? Whether it’s in the Senate, whether it’s in Congress, whether it’s as mayor, whether it’s one of the other elected offices – county commission – I don’t know. They all have their pluses and minuses to them, but I’ve got time to decide and I’m certainly going to use that time to try to decide what I want to do.”

Kriseman has also expressed contempt at the political climate in Tallahassee. During a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club legislative wrap-up, he told members that this past legislative session was a disappointment.

“The Florida Legislature has once again asked the poor and middle class to cut back and do with less, while asking for no sacrifices from big corporations.”

Krisman criticized Governor Rick Scott for vetoing funds for rape crisis centers while signing off on $5 million for a rowing center in Sarasota. But it was the mention of education in Florida that made Kriseman really grimace.

“In my mind there’s been a systemic effort to undercut public education by every year decreasing funding. Then you can claim that the system isn’t working so now we have to look for other sources, whether it’s vouchers or charter schools. The problem is, it’s great if you’re going to throw money in there, but there’s no accountability and there’s no oversight.”

His Republican counterparts talked about improvements to public education – even claiming that Florida ranks tenth in the country. Kriseman said that’s simply just not true. And it’s been his voice in Pinellas County that’s been the loudest against many Republican initiatives. He said voters need to take a look at what they like and don’t like and then use the ballot box to make a change.

“There’s been one party that’s been in charge now for 16 years of the House, of the Senate and of the Governor’s mansion. So, if you’ve got issues with our education system, if you think from an economic development standpoint we’re not competitive, if you don’t think our healthcare system is working you have to look at the guys who are in charge.”

Kriseman said he’s not worried about leaving the House because he thinks Democrats can unseat some of the 81 Republicans currently in the House. Former St. Petersburg City Council candidate Josh Shulman has announced that he will seek Kriseman’s seat in the House. And Dwight Dudley, a DUI attorney in St. Pete, will challenge Republican Representative Jeff Brandes for his seat in the House.

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