Morning Digest: Democratic St. Pete mayor finishes first in primary ahead of tough general election

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.

Leading Off

St. Petersburg, Florida mayor: On Tuesday, St. Petersburg held its nonpartisan primary, and Democratic Mayor Rick Kriseman and ex-Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican, advanced to the Nov. 7 general. But in a complete surprise, Kriseman finished ahead of Baker, leading him 48.36-48.23—a margin of 69 votes. A poll taken about a week before the primary by St. Pete Polls on behalf of the blog Florida Politics gave Baker a stronger 47-40 edge, though no other firms released numbers during the campaign.

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While St. Petersburg is a Democratic-leaning city, Baker entered the race quite popular seven years after leaving office. Baker is also a rare Republican who has a solid base of support with African-American voters. However, Kriseman may have benefited from a late endorsement from Barack Obama. Indeed, as Matthew Isbell notes, Kriseman won the votes cast on Election Day 52-44 while Baker won the early vote 50-47, so there may well have been a late shift toward the incumbent. Turnout among registered voters was also high. Isbell writes that Democrats outpaced Republicans 52-33 in the 2017 primary, about the same margin as during the 2012 presidential election.

However, neither side can take anything for granted heading into November. Isbell writes that Baker once again did very well in heavily African-American areas. In precincts where at least 80 percent of registered voters are black, Baker led 51-38. By contrast, during the 2013 general election where Kriseman unseated GOP incumbent Bill Foster 56-44, the Democrat won these precincts 76-24. (See Isbell’s post for more, including some detailed results maps.)

Both candidates will also have plenty of money to slug it out. Kriseman has tied Baker to Donald Trump and other national Republicans, and he’s likely to keep up that strategy. Both candidates have also been blaming the other for the state of the city’s sewage system. During two recent rainy seasons, the overwhelmed system dumped more than 200 million gallons of waste into neighborhoods, waterways, and the roads. Baker has argued that Kriseman badly handled the problem, while Kriseman says that Baker neglected the sewers when he was mayor.