Rick Baker doubles down on Rick Kriseman aide's past in latest campaign attack
ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker’s campaign doubled down on its latest line of attack in the mayoral race on Wednesday, demanding that Mayor Rick Kriseman “release the records” sealed after his chief of staff Kevin King’s 2001 arrest involving underage girls.
The political attack started Tuesday, when Baker’s political action committee Seamless Florida released an ad detailing King’s 2001 arrest after police said the former substitute teacher solicited two girls, aged 14 and 15, to skip school and drink beer with him. Police said he asked the 14-year-old to peform a sexual act on him.
King was fired by the Pinellas County School District but never convicted of the charges. A judge sealed the records of the case. King has declined to comment on the case, or to reveal the disposition of the court case.
Baker’s campaign released a statement Wednesday taking issue with Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith’s statement that the case didn’t go anywhere and didn’t involve the mayor. Smith said King's past had "zero" to do with the mayor.
“Zero? Are you serious? Kriseman hired him as his chief of staff. Kriseman put him in charge of education policy and the staff responsible for recruiting volunteers to mentor students in our schools,” the statement said.
Added Baker communications director Brigitta Shouppe: “Running the city has everything to do with judgment and competency. If Rick Kriseman is going to stand by his decision to put this controversial hire in charge of the mayor’s education programs….then he should tell his chief of staff to release the records.”
King said he would defer to the campaign for comment. The Kriseman campaign did not comment on Wednesday, but said the day before that it was a "new low" for Baker and a "a desperate attempt to save his failing campaign."
King’s arrest has been widely known at least since Kriseman’s 2006 campaign for the Florida House.
So why make it an issue two weeks before the Nov. 7 election?
"From day one of this campaign we have talked about Rick Kriseman's incompetence and poor judgement," Shouppe said in a text to the Tampa Bay Times. "The City's organizational chart was just recently brought to our attention showing that Kriseman put his Chief of Staff over Education Policy & Programs."
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