Behind the News, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

St. Petersburg Mayoral Primary: Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster jockey for losing candidates’ support

As Bill Foster and Kathleen Ford celebrate primary wins this evening, the losing eight mayoral candidates wrapped up election parties and drove home. But their roles in the mayoral election are not finished. Over the next few weeks, Foster and Ford will jockey for the remaining 47 percent of voters who didn’t choose them tonight, and attempt to turn former opponents into friends.

That won’t be easy.

The third and fourth top vote getters — Deveron Gibbons (19 percent) and Scott Wagman (15 percent) — won’t say who they’ll support in the general election.

As Gibbons left Push Ultra Lounge, he promised to meet with Ford and Foster to “discuss the issues.”

“Then let me sit down with my supporters and decide who I run the race with,” he said.

Wagman said he was hesitant to back either candidate.

“At this time I’m not even thinking about it,” he said from his event at Outback Steakhouse. “I have issues with both [of them].” He paused and added, “I will back Ken Welch. At some point, he will be mayor of this town.”

John Warren, the owner of Savannah’s Cafe who championed smart growth and economic recovery, also wasn’t prepared to support either candidate.

“I’ve had a chance to speak with [Ford and Foster] and each has some decent ideas,” he said. “But a big issue that hasn’t been discussed is community planning. A lot of the other individual issues you could categorize under community planning.”

The importance of the other candidates was not lost on Ford or Foster.

At her victory party at Red Mesa Cantina, Ford praised all contenders for running great campaigns, singling out Gibbons and Wagman. At Midtown Sundries, Foster told supporters, “I intend to be everybody’s mayor, whether they supported me or not.”

Like the other office-seekers, former city councilmember Larry Williams, who finished fifth in the primary, knows the remaining two candidates will seek his support.

“I’m going to meet with them and I have three questions,” he said. “What are you going to do about D and F schools? What are you going to do about panhandling? And what about the baseball team?”

After finishing off a chicken wing, Williams added, “Before I ran my first campaign, a friend of mine in Tampa, who worked on many political campaigns, told me, ‘Sometimes you’re more powerful when you’re not elected.'”

Dispatches from the Sunshine State

St. Petersburg Mayoral Primary: Scene Report

In just shy of an hour, the polls close on St. Petersburg’s mayoral primary. I’ve crisscrossed the city and made some calls to give you an update. Here’s a brief rundown:

The Pinellas County Elections office has the turnout so far at 6 percent. With early voting, total turnout hovers around 18 percent. I almost feel excited we may break 20 percent. Then, I fall back into depression over my dimished expectations

As rush hour begins, campaign supporters with signs are on nearly every intersection. No, wait. Those are just panhandlers

Bay News 9 already found a party to crash: Bill Foster’s event at Midtown Sundries. I guess we know who they bet on …

At Push Ultra Lounge and Red Mesa Cantina, several Kathleen Ford and Deveron Gibbons supporters set up for tonight’s election results fete. Just looking at the signs out front (see above), I can tell this is going to be one skitzophrenic party …

Jamie Bennett is holding his campaign affair at home — 768 Pinellas Point S. Bennett was chopping up a pork tenderloin just out of the smoker when I caught up with him. “Just look for the 100 Bennett signs in the lawn,” he says …

Two-time mayoral candidate Ed Helm is planning an “election celebration” at St. Pete Diner on 34th Street North. Helm tells me “a good Democrat owns it, there’s good food and the original blue plate special.” He guaranteed the food is free, too …

John Warren and Richard Eldridge have not gotten back to me. The only reason I can imagine for not having a party is expecting a loss …

UPDATE: Warren is inviting supporters to Savannah’s Cafe from 7 p.m. “until one minute after my concession speech, which for the fun of it will be crafted and delivered by those in attendance.” …

And still no sign of Paul Congemi. I even checked the KFC on 34th Street.