Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What St. Pete's Election Means for the Rays

Crazy results in today's St. Pete mayoral primary, where Mayor Rick Baker finished in a virtual tie with incumbent Rick Kriseman.  With just about all of the votes counted, Kriseman's unofficial total was 69 votes more than Baker. That's 48.36% to 48.23%.  Of course, since neither Rick reached 50%, it does not matter and the two will head to a run-off in November.

That's fantastic news for both Kriseman, who was on the verge of an outright loss according to polls, and also good for Rays fans hoping to keep the team in St. Pete, for they now have two more months to try and keep Kriseman in city hall, their best bet for keeping the Rays in St. Pete.

It may also delay conversations about Tampa's stadium pitch, as the team has quietly told folks in Hillsborough they don't want to influence the mayor's race.

Earlier this month, I interviewed both candidates about the city's pro sports future, and reported on some of the big differences in their loyalties & visions.  St. Pete seems to be too small for two top-level teams, and Baker is a natural ally of the Rowdies after quarterbacking their MLS 2 St. Pete campaign (sorry to mix metaphors) while Kriseman has been a reliable partner to the Rays.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times' instant editorial on the election quickly dismissed St. Pete's chances for a new Rays stadium, writing "it is apparent that a new baseball stadium is not likely to be built on this land for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are more likely to prefer a new stadium in Tampa."

Except the assumption seems to be based on nothing more than Ken Hagan's promise of a possible stadium location near Ybor City. County commissioners haven't heard the plan, which is likely to compete with other budget priorities; city councilmembers haven't heard the plan, which is likely to be unpopular with some; taxpayers haven't heard the plan, which is likely going to cost them money; and most importantly - nobody in Hillsborough has any idea how to pay for the darn thing. Don't count Pinellas and its deep pockets out.

Hey Times, what happened to the days of calling on St. Pete and Tampa to work together on this for "complementary rather than competitive efforts?" And warning about Commissioner Ken Hagan's "poor track record when it comes to limiting public subsidies?" The secretive negotiations and tug-of-war only hurts taxpayers.

City Council showdowns

In an eight-way primary for the District 6 seat, Justin Bean will advance to the runoff after besting the field with approximately 21% of the votes in the small district. He will face either Robert Blackmon or Gina Driscoll, who appear to be separated by just EIGHT votes with the overwhelming majority of ballots now counted. They will have to wait for a recount to know their official fates, however. In the general election runoff, any voter in the city can vote.

Bean, who was a consultant on the Tropicana Field redevelopment project, said "no public funds" for the stadium during his campaign, but said he would be open to using tax money for infrastructure and surrounding development. It was reported Blackmon wanted to use city resources to market the Rays better, as well as offering the team redevelopment money and possibly a CRA/TIF district to help pay for construction.  Driscoll campaigned on a methodical approach to the Rays, reportedly supported a new stadium, but only after additional input from locals and financial commitment from the Rays.

Two other city council races will also be decided in fall: District 2 and District 4.  Neither race had a primary because each had just two candidates qualify.

In D2, Barclay Harless, who promised "not one dime" for the Rays until the city gets its sewer problems under control, faces off against fellow Democrat Brandi Gabbard.  10News previously showed how some St. Pete stadium dollars were coming from the same revenue pot as sewer dollars.  Gabbard has supported relocating the Rays into her North St. Pete district, possibly to the Derby Lane site.

In D4, incumbent Darden Rice, a Democrat who has been methodical but supportive of Kriseman's path on the Stadium Saga, seems to have an insurmountable advantage over 21-year-old challenger Jerick Johnson, who has only raised $4,331 compared to more than $100,000 raised by Rice.

A fourth council seat up for grabs went uncontested this year, with incumbent Amy Foster winning re-election unopposed.

St. Pete's general election is set for Nov. 7.

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  1. Another well informed article, but it doesn't actually matter who's running St.Pete beyond this year, the Rays are Channelside bond, and always have been...

    1. Still waiting to hear how Tampa's gonna pay for it...

    2. And we're sure you'll only wait to find out to re-report about it, then be critical of any plan that's offered.

    3. Though part of the answer is already being answered, ask the investors involved around Vinikville, their investments partly bc of Publix Park is a big part of it already.
      If I was willing to buy an in ground pool for your home, would you pay to fence it in?

  2. I completely agree.

  3. A new stadium has to be in Tampa or MLB will move the team elsewhere like Vegas, Montreal, San Antonio, etc.. considering they can't draw in St. Pete.. I mean, they can't continue to play in their current stadium, which just drew the fewest fans for a series in its history.. near Expos levels for attendance.