Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.
According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.
Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.
Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.
On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.
While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.
A columnist at the Tampa Bay Times advocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.
I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) December 8, 2015
While people criticized him for the tweet, he ultimately proved that being partisan in an increasingly politically divided nation can be advantageous.
Other Democrats won seats across the United States on Tuesday, leading one Washington Post journalist to label it the “Democratic wave.”
Democrat Rick Kriseman has been re-elected mayor of St. Petersburg. Democratic wave all over east coast.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) November 8, 2017
Local politicians congratulated Kriseman after his victory.
— US Rep Kathy Castor (@USRepKCastor) November 8, 2017
— Bob Buckhorn (@BobBuckhorn) November 8, 2017
— CommissionerKenWelch (@Kenwelch) November 8, 2017
Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.
One local news publication questioned the newspaper’s integrity after discovering that a member of the editorial board wrote the foreword in Baker’s upcoming book.
After Kriseman won the election, he tweeted a thank you to those who supported him, and promised to uphold his campaign promises.
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) November 8, 2017
Kriseman is the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg.