Baker: ‘The Race Is On’
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
Rick Baker formally announced his candidacy for St. Petersburg mayor this morning (May 9).
ST. PETERSBURG – Former Mayor Rick Baker kicked off his campaign to take his old job back on the steps of City Hall this morning (May 9) with endorsements from sitting and former City Council members as well as former mayors.
Baker followed up the endorsements with a speech highlighting the accomplishments of his administration and a condemnation of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration as insulated and divisive.
“It’s an insulated administration and one that is seeking to divide us,” Baker said. “This insulation and this effort to divide … [is] disastrous.”
Baker, currently the president of the Edwards Group, served as St. Petersburg mayor from 2001 to 2010. His two terms in office, Baker said, were characterized by successes that arose from working together with neighborhoods, schools and others.
Among those successes, he said, were a health clinic, bank, library, and grocery store in south St. Petersburg. Baker added that he also went into the schools to help make sure they, too, were serving the community.
“That all changed three and a half years ago,” Baker said, referring to Kriseman’s election.
Baker criticized Kriseman for a string of broken campaign promises – telling people that, if elected, they would be able to choose the design of the Pier. And, saying that the Pier would be built by 2015.
Those are some of the reasons Baker said he decided to run even though he had no intention of doing so.
“I just can’t stand it anymore. I just can’t stand and watch,” Baker said. “The race is on.”
Baker brought supporters to his announcement. Among them were St. Petersburg City Council member Jim Kennedy; Democratic state Rep. Wengay Newton, a former St. Pete council member; and former council member Leslie Curran. All three endorsed Baker.
“He is the only candidate who knows how to work with the City Council as a team,” Kennedy said.
Newton said Baker has a proven track record: “He’s the only man that was able to make significant changes in the area I grew up.”
Newton was referring to south St. Petersburg. He added, “To me, the city is way off track.”
Curran said she has been “increasingly disappointed” with Kriseman’s performance. She noted she endorsed Kriseman when he ran in 2013.
“I am here to endorse proven leadership,” Curran said.
Baker said City Council member Ed Montanari and former Council member Bill Dudley also supported his candidacy. And, he pointed to former mayors who came out to support him: Dave Fischer, Bob Ulrich and Bill Foster.
Qualifying for the election opens 8 a.m. June 8 and closes 5 p.m. June 23. The primary is Aug. 29. The general election is Nov. 7.
For information about Baker, go to bakerstpete.com.
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