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Rick Baker radio spot continues attacks on Kevin King

On Friday, Rick Baker’s campaign capped a week of attacks on Kevin King, chief of staff for Mayor Rick Kriseman with a 1-minute radio spot that accuses Kriseman of tolerating King’s 2001 arrest involving solicitation of underage girls and assigning city education policy to his top aide’s portfolio.

The first 30-seconds of the ad is audio taken directly  from a previous TV ad detailing King’s arrest. King was never convicted of any crime.

Baker says he has “zero tolerance” for King’s behavior, but Kriseman “not only tolerated it, he promoted it,” by hiring King.

Baker segues to charging that Kriseman looked the other way when fringe mayoral candidate Paul Congemi told supporters of Uhuru-affiliated candidate Jesse Nevel to go back to Africa.

In fact, Kriseman condemned Congemi’s statements the next day and said he regretted not speaking out during the July forum at City Hall.

“This has got to stop. On Nov. 7, it will,” Baker says on the ad.

Kriseman has said Baker’s attacks on King were sad. His campaign has called them desperate. …

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Did Rick Baker speak out about Charlotttesville? Democratic ad suggests he didn't. But Baker did say something

The Florida Democratic Party on Friday released a new ad attacking Rick Baker. Entitled "Changed Man," it portrays the Republican former mayor as a Trump lackey who lies about his opponent, Mayor Rick Kriseman.

[Times files]

The Florida Democratic Party on Friday released a new ad attacking Rick Baker. Entitled "Changed Man," it portrays the Republican former mayor as a Trump lackey who lies about his opponent, Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The Florida Democratic Party on Friday released a new ad attacking Rick Baker.

Entitled “Changed Man,” it portrays the Republican former mayor as a Trump lackey who lies about his opponent, Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Except the 30-second ad has some problems of its own.

The ad has Baker’s face share the screen with white supremacists and Nazis while criticizing Baker for remaining silent about Trump's comments about the violence in Charlottesville in August. 

“Baker never took a stand,” the narrator says.

Baker never condemned Trump by name, but he did say "ever public official at every level" should condemn white supremacy in a statement about the violence, which was noted in the Tampa Bay Times. Below is the statement Baker made in August about Charlottesville:

"Every American, including every public official at every level, has the moral obligation to reject and condemn the White Supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis and all others who promote racism. These groups trade in hatred and are responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, period." - Rick Baker

Baker also attended a vigil on St. Petersburg’s waterfront at which Kriseman spoke. …

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Bernie McCabe is reviewing final FWC criminal investigative report

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's criminal investigation is complete. Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe will decide whether to pursue criminal charges.

Eve Edelheit (2016)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's criminal investigation is complete. Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe will decide whether to pursue criminal charges.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has filed its final investigative report with Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, who said Thursday he is reviewing the file.

The FWC delivered its report to McCabe on Oct. 20, said agency spokesman Robert Klepper.

Neither agency released a copy of the report Thursday. The FWC said the file was part of an ongoing criminal investigation and not a public record.  

A draft report was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times in July, which blasted the city’s two decades of mismanagement of its sewer system. The seven-page draft report laid most of the blame on Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration, especially Kriseman’s decision to close the Albert Whitted sewage treatment plant and then not to reopen it after initial spills in 2015.

McCabe decided not to pursue criminal charges in July, but said he would look at any additional evidence provided by the FWC

The draft report has become a flashpoint in the mayoral race between Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker. …

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Tampa, Hillsborough officials cleared in ethics complaint

A state ethics panel has cleared three local officials of wrongdoing in a complaint related to the awarding of a transportation consulting contract.

The Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that the citizen complaint against Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman lacked probable cause, exonerating the three from allegations that at one point instigated a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigation and ultimately helped opponents derail a proposed sales tax for transportation.

The Sheriff’s investigation found some public records ordinances were violated but, like the ethics commission, it cleared the public officials and others involved of the larger allegations.

The ethics complaint claimed that officials awarded a Go Hillsborough transportation outreach contract to engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff because it was a client of Beth Leytham, a Tampa public relations consultant. Parsons then awarded Leytham a lucrative subctract to work on the outreach campaign.

Leytham had previously provided campaign advice and in some cases donations to Buckhorn, Hagan and Murman. …

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Water Street Tampa to include residential building with grocery store, apartments and condos

Developers say Water Street Tampa will include a residential project called 815 Water Street that will have two towers, one with rental apartments and a second with condominiums, rising from a base that includes a full-service grocery store.

Rendering courtesy Riverfilm, Strategic Property Partners

Developers say Water Street Tampa will include a residential project called 815 Water Street that will have two towers, one with rental apartments and a second with condominiums, rising from a base that includes a full-service grocery store.

The first residential building at Water Street Tampa will have one tower with rental apartments and a second with condominiums, both rising from a base featuring a full-service grocery store, developers said Thursday.

The building at 815 Water Street is planned for the intersection of Water Street and Channelside Drive, next to Amalie Arena and the Tampa Bay History Center. It is expected to break ground in 2018 with an opening in late 2020.

The residential and retail building is the latest piece of a $3 billion plan for downtown Tampa to be unveiled by Strategic Property Partners, the joint venture between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, the investment fund launched by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Plans call for the 21-story rental tower to be perpendicular to Channelside Drive. The 26-story condominium tower — one of Tampa's first new for-purchase residential towers in nearly a decade — would be angled towards the water, affording residents views of the waterfront and downtown Tampa. …

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Bad timing? Will news of a Tampa ballpark for Rays hurt Rick Kriseman's reelection chances?

Republican County Commissioner Ken Hagan's sudden announcement of a county offer for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Tampa has some wondering what effect it will have on St. Pete mayor's race

Times Image (2017)

Republican County Commissioner Ken Hagan's sudden announcement of a county offer for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Tampa has some wondering what effect it will have on St. Pete mayor's race

Amid all the buzz about Tuesday's announcement that Hillsborough County has identified a stadium site in the Ybor City-Channel District area to offer to the Tampa Bay Rays for a new ballpark, St. Petersburg political observers wondered about something else:

How does this news affect the white-hot mayor’s race between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker?

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hillsborough: New Rays ballpark should go in Ybor City

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Kriseman supporter and fellow Democrat, told the Tampa Bay Times that the news came at a bad time for Kriseman — just two weeks before the Nov. 7 election. It puts the issue of the Rays possibly leaving St. Petersburg back on voters' radar.

"I think this could have been thought out more carefully — it would have been nice to see the Rays involved in this announcement," Buckhorn said. "I don't think the timing is helpful in the St. Pete election.”

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race. …

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Crist angry he had no say in proposed Tampa ballpark site before it went public

Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said he's angry he was not briefed before Commissioner Ken Hagan went public with his preferred site for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Tampa.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said he's angry he was not briefed before Commissioner Ken Hagan went public with his preferred site for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Tampa.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan surprised the local sports world by announcing that local leaders picked a Ybor City site to offer the Tampa Bay Rays for a ballpark.

But that’s not all who were surprised.

Commissioner Victor Crist was livid Wednesday that he learned about the plan through the media. Crist said it was a violation of protocol for Hagan to unveil a location as a county plan and present it to the Rays without first getting the approval of the entire commission.

Crist’s fear is that this has been branded publicly as Hillsborough County’s plan, when the county commission hasn’t even seen it, let alone vote on it.

“This has had no vetting of the county commission. This has had no vetting of public input,” Crist said. “This whole thing has been done in a vacuum behind the scenes, out of the sunshine and that is not how the Board of County Commissioners operates.”

Crist pointed out that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told reporters that he, too, was caught off guard by Hagan’s announcement. County Administrator Mike Merrill told the Tampa Bay Times that he wasn’t given a warning by Hagan either, but said, "That's his prerogative." …

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Rick Baker doubles down on Rick Kriseman aide's past in latest campaign attack

Mayor Kriseman's chief of staff Kevin King continues to be the target of Rick Baker's campaign

Times File Photo (21013)

Mayor Kriseman's chief of staff Kevin King continues to be the target of Rick Baker's campaign

ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker’s campaign doubled down on its latest line of attack in the mayoral race on Wednesday, demanding that Mayor Rick Kriseman “release the records”  sealed after his chief of staff Kevin King’s 2001 arrest involving underage girls.

The political attack started Tuesday, when Baker’s political action committee Seamless Florida released an ad detailing King’s 2001 arrest after police said the former substitute teacher solicited two girls, aged 14 and 15, to skip school and drink beer with him. Police said he asked the 14-year-old to peform a sexual act on him.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

King was fired by the Pinellas County School District but never convicted of the charges. A judge sealed the records of the case.  King has declined to comment on the case, or to reveal the disposition of the court case.

Baker’s campaign released a statement Wednesday taking issue with Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith’s statement that the case didn’t go anywhere and didn’t involve the mayor. Smith said King's past had "zero" to do with the mayor. …

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Kevin King's 2001 arrest involving underage girls subject of new Rick Baker ad

Kevin King

[Times files (2013)]

Kevin King

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman’s chief of staff, Kevin King, was a lightning rod of controversy during the mayor’s first term. Now he is the subject of a new TV ad from the campaign of mayoral challenger Rick Baker.

Produced by Baker’s political action committee, Seamless Florida, the ad details King’s 2001 arrest for sending emails and internet messages to two underage students, girls ages 14 and 15, asking them to skip school and drink beer with him back when he was a substitute teacher. Police said he also asked the 14-year-old to perform a sex act on him.

“I’ll never forgive Rick Kriseman for this," said an unnamed woman in the 30-second ad released Tuesday morning. "Knowing what authorities say this man did. It’s sickening.”

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

However, the woman is not related to either girl, said Baker campaign spokeswoman Brigitta Shouppe. The campaign did not identify the woman or say if she has any links to the incident, saying only that she is a mother and former teacher. …

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Kriseman calls on national Democrats in final push for St. Pete mayor's race

ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the Aug. 29 mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman snagged a rarely-given endorsement from former President Barack Obama. That backing that may have helped push the incumbent mayor to a narrow victory over challenger Rick Baker.

As the general election nears, Kriseman is again calling on national Democrats to lend a hand.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

On Friday, Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama, will join the mayor at Station House for a fundraiser in the morning. Then Castro will call voters on behalf of Kriseman at the mayor's campaign’s headquarters.

The next day, Saturday, early voting starts.

Then on Oct. 30, the following Monday, former Maryland governor and presidential candidate Martin O’Malley will join another phone bank.

Kriseman announced the visits by the prominent Democrats on his Facebook page late Monday.

The Nov. 7 election against Baker, a former mayor, could be just as close as the primary was. Kriseman prevailed in the primary by just 70 votes.

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Kriseman TV ad, mailer another chapter in Trump strategy

The latest mailer from Rick Kriseman's campaign continues to tie opponent Rick Baker to President Donald Trump

Florida Democratic Party

The latest mailer from Rick Kriseman's campaign continues to tie opponent Rick Baker to President Donald Trump

With 15 days left before the St. Petersburg mayor's race is decided, Mayor Rick Kriseman's campaign continues to attempt to tie former mayor Rick Baker to Donald Trump.

In a TV ad that debuted Friday and a mailer over the weekend, the Kriseman campaign reminded voters that Baker, a Republican, hasn't rebuked Trump for the president's many controversial actions. Baker has said repeatedly that the non-partisan race should remain just that. But Baker's heavily GOP donor base has made some skeptical of that position.

Meanwhile, Kriseman, a Democrat, has rarely missed an opportunity to tweet against Trump. The mayor has touted his party affilation in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 30,000 registered voters.

Kriseman's latest mailer and ad were paid for by the Florida Democratic Party, which is eager to retain control of the state's fifth-largest city, especially after the GOP's win in the 2015 Jacksonville mayoral contest.

The mailer, aimed at black voters, pairs Baker's image with Trump twice and contains the tagline: "Baker's silence isn't golden. It's backward. And a betrayal." …

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District 6 Council candidate Justin Bean crisscrosses St. Petersburg

District 6 St. Petersburg City Council candidate Justin Bean speaks in front of City Hall on Thursday.

[WAVENEY ANN MOORE | Times]

District 6 St. Petersburg City Council candidate Justin Bean speaks in front of City Hall on Thursday.

ST. PETERSBURG – City Council District 6 candidate Justin Bean spent Thursday crisscrossing the city by bus, electric car and bike as part of a campaign to get his message out.

His final stop was City Hall, where he spoke on the steps of the historic municipal building about what he referred to as the most pressing issues facing St. Petersburg, among them economic development, the lack of a grocery store in Midtown, affordable housing, early childhood education and the redevelopment of Tropicana Field.

St. Pete District 6 council race: Justin Bean vs. Gina Driscoll

"What a lot of people don't know is that site used to be a neighborhood," he said, referring to the displacement of a number of residents in the city's African-American community to make way for the stadium.

Any redevelopment must include healing "that wound," he said.

Know Your City Council Candidates: Justin Bean vs. Gina Driscoll, District 6

One of Bean's stops was Tangerine Plaza in Midtown, where two supermarkets have failed. …

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Rick Baker revises controversial radio ad, Rick Kriseman's campaign says former mayor is "dishonest" and "desperate"

Mayor Rick Kriseman says former mayor Rick Baker is dishonest and desperate for airing a radio ad that has since been revised

Lara Cerri, Eve Edelheit (2017)

Mayor Rick Kriseman says former mayor Rick Baker is dishonest and desperate for airing a radio ad that has since been revised

Rick Baker’s campaign has revised a controversial radio ad that had incorrectly stated Mayor Rick Kriseman hadn’t “bothered to show up” at a NAACP event earlier this month.

Kriseman had shown up, staying for about 15 minutes. His campaign blasted Baker Thursday, saying local radio stations had pulled the ad after a Tampa Bay Times story confirmed Kriseman had been at the Oct. 7 event.

The new ad, still narrated by civil rights activist Sevell Brown, now says: “And Kriseman just insulted the NAACP.”  Seamless Florida, a political-action committee supporting Baker produced and paid for the ad. 

Listen to it here.

Kriseman didn’t confirm he would attend the event prior to his arrival, which angered chapter president Maria Scruggs, who said it was disrepectful. Baker stayed for the entire 90-minute event, she said.

Kriseman’s campaign said the original ad was an intentional smear. …

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Which Rick is worse at managing the city's piggy bank?

Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker battled again over the city's reserves at a Wednesday forum

Charlie Frago

Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker battled again over the city's reserves at a Wednesday forum

It may have been the final debate in the nearly six-month long trek that has been St. Petersburg’s most expensive, most scrutinized and, likley, most bitter mayoral race in its 114-year history.

 Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker grappled on well-trod ground: the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, sewage woes, climate change and whether a non-partisan race should constantly invoke Donald Trump.

The hour-long debate Wednesday at the Sunshine Center drew about 40 people and just two reporters from the Tampa Bay Times and floridapolitics.com. Times metro columnist John Romano was there, too. The overflowing high-energy crowds and TV cameras that marked the numerous forums and debates before the Aug. 29 primary were a distant memory.

The news of the night was Baker’s ambivalance about the city’s universal curbside recycling program.

But the two Ricks also took up where they left off last week at a Disston Heights forum on a topic that may only quicken the pulse of those few dozen hardy souls who show up at the city’s budget summit in the dog days of summer each year.

Who is a worse steward of  the city’s reserves? …

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Rick Baker and Recycling: Will he keep it? It's complicated. Very complicated.

Rick Baker's position on the city's recycling program was the news of Wednesday's mayoral forum. On Thursday, the former mayor still demurred when asked if he would promise to keep the program as his opponent Mayor Rick Kriseman has done.

Cherie Diez (2017)

Rick Baker's position on the city's recycling program was the news of Wednesday's mayoral forum. On Thursday, the former mayor still demurred when asked if he would promise to keep the program as his opponent Mayor Rick Kriseman has done.

At Wednesday night’s Council of Neighborhood Associations’ mayoral forum, perhaps the biggest news of the night was former mayor Rick Baker’s remarks on recycling.

The Tampa Bay Times story on the forum noted his ambivalence about the program and reported that he didn’t promise to keep the program as it currently works: a monthly $2.95 charge for single-family homes for twice monthy curbside (or alley, depending on the neighborhood) pickup.

On Thursday, Baker said that his position has been misrepresented, taking particular issue with the following sentence in this story: “He would not promise to keep the program.”

His opponent, Mayor Rick Kriseman made such a promise. Baker did not. But the former mayor objected to the story, saying his position had been turned "upside down."

“I didn’t promise not to tear down the Sunshine Skyway bridge either,” Baker said.

But when asked again Thursday if he promised to keep the program, Baker demurred, saying he intended to keep it, but would evaluate its effectiveness, similar to his previous stance on the subject as reported in the Times.

“You don’t know 1000 percent certainty about anything,” he said. …

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