Rick Baker sets first major fundraiser for mayoral bid on May 23

May 13
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Former two-time St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is hosting the first official fundraiser kicking off his bid for a third term against incumbent Rick Kriseman.

The reception is Tuesday, May 23 beginning 5:30 p.m. at the Morean Center for Clay St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District.

Baker, who served two terms as mayor from 2001-2010, officially filed paperwork for his campaign Monday, making the formal announcement on the steps of City Hall the next day.

On April 11, Baker supporters registered Seamless Florida, the political committee tied to Baker’s campaign. The committee’s name is a take on one of Baker’s books on governing.

RSVPs for the event are at bakerstpete.com, by contacting Rick Porter at (407) 849-1112, rick@politicalcapitalflorida.com or with Gretchen Picotte at (407) 849-1112,gp@politicalcapitalflorida.com.

Morean Center for Clay is located at 420 22nd St. S. in St. Petersburg.

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Editorial: Keep partisanship out of St. Petersburg mayor’s race

Tampa Bay Times
May 12, 2017
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The high-profile race between St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker will feature plenty of debate over the city’s biggest challenges and each candidate’s record. What it doesn’t need is partisanship. Kriseman and Baker are from different political parties, but the mayor’s race is not a choice between Democratic or Republican positions, and the candidates owe it to voters to stay above the partisan fray.

Kriseman, a Democrat who previously served in the Florida Legislature, is seeking a second term. Baker, a Republican who led the city from 2001-10, is seeking a return to the city’s top post. But the election and job of St. Petersburg’s top leader is officially nonpartisan. Among the challenges for the next mayor will be repairing the city’s crumbling sewer system, building consensus on a new Pier, resolving the Tampa Bay Rays stadium quandary and creating opportunity in the city’s economically disadvantaged southern neighborhoods. Party affiliation is immaterial to all those issues.

The statement by Kriseman’s campaign manager that Baker’s “high-profile work against our first African-American president disqualifies him” is an example of what not to do. St. Petersburg voters will choose the next mayor not based on his support for presidential candidates or his position on social issues such as abortion or the death penalty. Those are left to Congress and the Legislature. The overarching concern is who can best build on the city’s momentum, provide efficient and cost-effective city services and protect public safety — not political party affiliation.

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Democratic activist blasts Rick Baker on LGBT issues, but doesn’t tell the whole story

Tampa Bay Times
May 10, 2017
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ST. PETERSBURG — Susan McGrath wears many hats. One is chairwoman of the Pinellas County Democratic Party. Another is president of the Stonewall Democrats.

On Wednesday, she said those roles played no part in her decision to join about two dozen members and allies of the city’s LGBT community to protest the candidacy of former mayor Rick Baker.

“It’s not about what party you come from,” McGrath said. “It’s about being fair and doing what’s right.”

Baker, she said, never supported St. Pete Pride when he was mayor and didn’t make the city’s gay community feel welcome.

Then, in front of TV news cameras, she addressed Baker’s campaign speech on those same steps the day before. But she did not do so accurately.

“Yesterday we listened to the words of former mayor Rick Baker,” McGrath said. “He said things like he wanted St. Petersburg to be a seamless city. He said we’re all in it together. He said the administration we have now tries to divide and promote hate among the people of St. Petersburg. He said he cares about the issues of everybody. He specifically said whether you’re black or white regardless of what your nationality is, regardless of gender, he cares about everybody.

“There was a conspicous omission in that comment. He stopped short of including everybody. He failed, he choked on being able to say that he wants a city where all people are welcome regardless of who you love because he couldn’t get those words out.”

In fact, while Baker described his vision of a seamless city in his 40-minute speech Tuesday, he directly addressed the LGBT community.

Here is transcript of Baker’s comments transcribed from a recording made by the Tampa Bay Times. The following comments come directly after his comments about the seamless city cited by McGrath:

“And part of that is the LGBT community, a lot of has been said about me and the LBT community. And I want you to know that I believe that the LGBT is a vital, important part of our community. I believe that when we work together, we have to work together with everyone. I don’t want to govern with 90 percent of the city, I want to govern with 100 percent of the city.

“If you were to look at my administration we had people from the LGBT community at every level of my government through the cabinet level.

“I hate to talk about groups like that, but I have to because I’m being called this and so when I look at folks whoever they are, I’m looking at what they can contribute to what we are doing. Not who they are or what they are,” Baker said to applause.

When asked to reconcile her comments about Baker’s speech with what Baker actually said, McGrath acknowledged that Baker had, in fact, addressed the LGBT community.

“So I would like to say on record that he said the minimum that he could in response to all of the comments and concern from the city of St. Petersburg, not just from LBGT community, but from all people who want an open, progressive and welcoming city,” McGrath said.

After the lunchtime protest Wednesday, Baker’s campaign issued a statement reiterating his comments about the LGBT community.

“I want the LGBTQ community to know I stand with and for them,” Baker’s statement said, “and that while I may not have the support of every member of that community, I support them.”

The mayoral contest between Baker and incumbent Rick Kriseman is now just two days old. The primary is Aug. 29.

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Former Mayor Rick Baker ends speculation: The former two time St. Pete mayor will run again

ABC Action News
May 9, 2017
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – With much fan fare, former two term Mayor Rick Baker finally ended speculation.

“I am running to be the next mayor of St. Petersburg,” said Baker.

Baker received many loud cheers and endorsements from current and former political heavyweights.

“I am here today to endorse proven leadership,” said current council woman Leslie Curran.

Baker said he is running again to to bring the city together. The 60-year-old is not shying away from what he feels is the current status of St. Pete.

“It’s been disastrous,” said Baker.

He cited issues in Midtown, stalled construction over the pier and continuing problems with the city’s sewer system.

He also reminded his supporters of a massive mess: dumping 50 gallons of sewage in the bay.

“That is a pretty big mistake,” said Baker.

“I welcome any challenger,” said Kriseman.

Kriseman stands by his leadership in his first term.

“It’s not about going back in time and the past. I look forward to talking about what we have been able to accomplish and what we want to do going forward,” said Kriseman.

Mainly that pier project, the future of the Tampa Bay Rays and building a new police station.

But Kriseman perhaps also anticipating Baker’s move is getting prepared for what is expected to be the most contentious race in the city’s history.

The 54-year-old already raised more than $400,000, secured many endorsements and already launched his TV add campaign “Moving Forward.”

Baker teams said his ads will soon follow but’s he’s already on YouTube.

Both giving voters lots take in before the upcoming primary election in August.

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