St. Petersburg, Florida - With the St. Petersburg Mayoral race down to two, Tuesday night was debate number one in the showdown between current Mayor Bill Foster and his challenger Rick Kriseman.
The topic during the forum was business, and it was standing room only inside the University Student Center at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus where it was held.
Foster and Kriseman squared off right out of the gates too, with verbal jabs against one another. One of the first topics they discussed was the Central Avenue corridor project.
"It took 1,648 days from the time he took office for the time that plan was unveiled. But like a lot of things with the city right now, it's stuck in quicksand," Kriseman said.
This forum allowed for rebuttal and it was during that portion of the forum when the gloves really came off and the verbal punches erupted.
Mayor Foster leaned on his accomplishments and talked about the experience he has from his first term in office.
"I think the proof is in the pudding of how I did advocate, and spent a very long weekend advocating, for that five million dollars for the school of business- something that the governor was going to veto," Foster said.
"It helps to have a friend in the Governor's mansion and I kind of crack up every Mr. Kriseman talks about having to go to Tallahassee and lobby. He spent six years in Tallahassee and didn't accomplish a thing," he added.
That's when Kriseman fired back.
"It would have been nice during my six years when I was in Tallahassee if Mr. Foster would have been up there every session during his term in office, not only advocating for public education, but for all those other issues that impact citizens of the state."
There were several noticeable faces in the audience, including former Police Chief and Deputy Mayor, Goliath Davis. Foster fired Davis from his post as a senior administrator with the city for not attending the funeral of a fallen police officer. Davis said he's backing Rick Kriseman - not out of anger, though. He said he maintained from the very beginning that he was leaving the job.
"If you followed what happened with my departure, I made it very clear that I was leaving anyway in December and I'd already made up my mind in December that I would not be supporting the incumbent, so it has nothing to do with anger or bitterness," Davis said.
"What you have- more importantly- five of the city council members have endorsed a candidate other than the incumbent," Davis continued. "They speak to the same issues that I speak to - credibility, leadership, flip-flopping and what have you- so cease telling people that my position is one that's based on anger. I'm far more intelligent than that."
Davis has a lot of influence in the African American community.
Voters will get the chance to decide for themselves however during the election on Tuesday, November 5th.
The forum was presented by USF St. Petersburg and LocalShops1 and sponsored by USFSP Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership and Civic Engagement, USFSP Student Government Association and the League of Women Voters.
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Tammie Fields, 10 News