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Was the Rays' relocation announcement a political power move?

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s a political power move that could change the dynamic of St. Petersburg's contentious mayor's race.
<p>Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Peter Bourjos (left) and right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (right) high-five after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017. </p>

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan didn't have to announce the possibility of a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium site in Tampa this week.

The Ray’s haven’t even decided whether they're leaving St. Pete. Hagan's announcement even took them by surprise.

So why announce now?

The answer is unknown.

But residents in St. Petersburg will vote for a new mayor in two weeks, which could determine whether the Rays stay in town, and if they leave, how millions will be spent on redevelopment.

Former mayor Rick Baker, who is running to replace current mayor Rick Kriseman, said he didn't know about the announcement.

“There's been talk for some time that they're looking for a site in Hillsborough County, but as far the announcement last night, that caught me by surprise,” Baker said. “Kriseman's decision to give away this contract has been part of this election all along.”

Kriseman wondered about the timing of the announcement.

Baker nor Hagen have contributed to each other's campaigns.

“I think the timing is a little interesting, especially since (Ken Hagan) seems to be the only one that knew about it," he said. "(Tampa) Mayor Buckhorn was taken by surprise, apparently some of (Hagan’s) colleagues on the commission were taken by surprise, and the Rays were taken by surprise.”

Kriseman says he doesn’t think the announcement will change anything just two weeks from the election.

He won the mayoral primary by 69 votes.

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