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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Pete, it's mayoral mailers season



With mail ballots going out in a little more than two weeks, the campaigns of Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have initiated mailer bombardments of Sunshine City voters.


Kriseman’s campaign sent two mailers to voters this week, both seeking to tie Baker to the city’s two-year sewage crisis.

It’s a  response to Baker’s incessant hammering of the incumbent mayor on mishaps and communication miscues that have accompanied a historic amount of sewage spills, 200 million gallons since August 2015. Baker has also aired a television ad on Kriseman and sewage.

“Rick Baker’s record on St. Pete sewers doesn’t smell right,” reads one mailer designed to look like a file on Baker, mayor between 2001 and 2010.

A 1,200 gallon spill on Baker’s first day in office due to broken valve is noted.  The 100 million dumped into Tampa Bay under Kriseman is not.

Sure, 1,200 gallons or even the 1.5 million gallons spilled over nine years of Baker’s tenure doesn’t compare to Kriseman’s hundreds of millions of gallond of dumped sewage, but that’s not the point, said Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith.

“We felt it was important that voters have all the information of the sewage problems going back decades,” Smith said.

A claim repeated in both mailers also repeats claims made by Kriseman last week that Baker started the whole process of shutting down the waterfront Albert Whitted sewage plant. The plant’s closure in 2015 made the spills worse, a state investigation concluded.

Baker had considered shutting down Albert Whitted, but decided against it in 2002.  Kriseman actually closed the plant, four month before the first spills, although the process began with a City Council vote in 2011.

Of course, all voters might remember is photoshopped image of Baker’s head emerging from a manhole with the tagline: “Rick Baker is hiding his record on St. Pete’s sewers”

The sewage crisis has been well documented. As have both mayors’ roles. But, that hasn’t stopped attempts by both campaigns to fling as much as of the nasty stuff they can at each other.

Baker and Kriseman’s political action committees paid for the mailers.

Baker’s mailers are also an interesting window into political strategy. The front sides look nearly identical, except for a subtle difference.

One mailer’s tagline? “St. Petersburg’s Proven Leader”

The mailer for black voters: “Proven Leadership For All”

On the flip side of the mailers: a tale of two cities.

A mailer to black voters highlights Baker’s accomplishments---which Kriseman has criticized as overblown and ineffective---in Midtown, complete with pictures of Baker with black people.

It also contains endorsements by black leaders like state Rep. Wengay Newton, former deputy mayor Go Davis and former city council member and state Rep. Frank Peterman. Democratic council member Jim Kennedy, who is white, round out the “Praised By” column.

The other mailer has more white faces and trumpets Baker’s environmental record and fiscal responsibility.  

No Wengay Newton. No Go Davis, but a line about St. Petersburg being designated the first Green City under Baker and check marks about property tax cuts and performance measures for city services.

The Baker campaign addressed the differences in a statement.

“Every voter in every neighborhood will receive our stance on every issue. Whether it’s mail, television or a volunteer walking door to door, we are sharing Rick Baker’s vision of a Seamless City,” said  campaign director Nick Hansen..

Mail ballot for military and overseas voters went out today. The primary is Aug. 29.

Of course, Baker and Kriseman aren’t the only candidates on the ballot.  Jesse Nevel, Anthony Cates III, Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter and Paul “The Truth” Congemi are also in the race.


[Last modified: Monday, July 17, 2017 9:59pm]


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