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Monday, Jul 16, 2018
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Hurricane Irma leaves St. Pete mayor's race on hold -- for now

ST. PETERSBURG — Remember the battle of the two Ricks? Something may have interrupted that. But it’ll be back.

What had been an intense mayoral race between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker has been on hiatus for more than a week because of Hurricane Irma.

HURRICANE IRMA: Latest coverage from the Tampa Bay Times.

Kriseman edged Baker in the Aug. 29 primary, then both candidates suspended campaign activities on Sept. 6 as the Tampa Bay region fell under Irma’s path.

The mayor has been highly visible since then, visiting sandbagging sites before the storm, attending news conferences with other elected officials at the Pinellas County Public Safety Complex, and checking out the damage after the storm. That activity that has been amply covered by the local and national media.

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

Baker said they would monitor the storm and reassess on Monday. But the former mayor did post to his campaign’s Facebook page that day about visiting a Midtown mom and pop grocery store. Here is the text of that post:

Like many of you, my wife Joyce and I rode out hurricane Irma in St. Petersburg. This morning we emerged from a friend’s house in Midtown to survey the damage, thankful that the storm was not worse. I look forward to working with friends and neighbors as we pull together as a community to clear the branches from the streets and get back to business.

As we visited the corner store in Midtown this morning with cars parked for blocks and people lined up to buy groceries, situations like these shine a light on why it is so important that we have basic resources like grocery stores in all corners of our City. As we rebuild our city, we must remember pictures like this and pledge to do something about it. - RB

The loss of the Walmart Neighborhood Market at Tangerine Plaza at 22nd Street S and 18 Avenue S has been a big issue in the mayor’s race, in tightly contested neighborhoods.

While the political rhetoric has slowed over the past week due to the storm, the money spigot feeding what is already the most expensive mayoral race in Sunshine City history has also gone from something kin to a fire hose to a garden hose.

The latest campaign finance reports show Baker raising $214,750 in PAC money and $9,250 in individual contributions. Kriseman raised $95,500 in PAC money and $28,136 in individual contributions through Sept. 1. The PAC numbers are for the whole month of August. The soft money figures are for the last week of August.

Overall, Baker has raised about $1.25 million to Kriseman’s $887,376, putting the total fundraising for the mayor’s primary well north of $2 million.

How much of that cash pile is left after the Aug. 29 primary? Baker has $79,001 left in the piggy bank. The mayor $97,249.

This is the first report in which Kriseman has ended up with more cash on hand.

The mayor’s race won’t stay on hiatus for much longer, however. The election is Nov. 7.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

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