ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — We're just six days away from the St. Petersburg Primary, an election that could potentially lead to some major or even historic changes in the city.
There are nine candidates running, but three are considered the frontrunners according to recent polling. The group Saint Pete Polls asked 749 likely voters who they would vote for in the Aug. 24 primary.
Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch was the frontrunner with nearly 31 percent, followed by City Council member Robert Blackmon at 25 percent and trailing in third, Darden Rice at 16 percent.
If Welch is elected, he would be the city's first Black mayor. If Rice wins, she would be the city's first openly gay mayor
Political Analyst Lars Hafner says he doesn't expect any of the three highly-qualified candidates to get the 50 percent needed to win outright, so he expects to see a runoff in November.
“Even though it is a non-partisan race in Saint Petersburg, it’s going to become very partisan just like the Baker-Kriseman race became. That’s why it’s going to be important if the democrat which would be Ken Welch vs Blackmon the Republican if Welch is going to win. Where Blackmon just has to consolidate a kind of homogenous group of people. Welch has got to get the voters out from the African American community, the LGBT community, other communities that will support him and all of those communities don’t always see eye to eye, so he’s got a bigger piece of the puzzle to put together in the long run. That’s what’s going to make the race very interesting,” Hafner said.
So far, there's been 15 percent turnout with voters turning in their mail-in ballots. It's too late to pop those in the mail to ensure it gets counted in time; so instead, if you still have one, you'll want to drop it off at one of the three Pinellas election offices.
You can also expect more diversity on the ballot and where you're voting. Florida's population has grown since the last census, giving us another future congressional seat. That means we will have 28 total. Hafner says the changing population will be factored into redistricting. The newest Census also shows a large increase in the Hispanic population across the Tampa Bay area and fewer white people.
“In the Tampa Bay community, Hispanics tend to trend democratic. Down in the Miami area, Hispanics tend to, Cuban Americans tend to trend Republican so what the census tell us in this community is especially in Tampa with more Hispanics that the trends could go more democratic which again means a democratic Hispanic individual may have a better chance of winning citywide or certainly in local districts and local races whether it be school board, county commission, or city council,” Hafner said.
Here's a map of Florida's Congressional districts. He believes we could see the 14th Congressional district expand west to St. Pete, and the 13th move further north. The state legislature will draw those seats, but if there's no consensus, a court can decide where the lines are drawn.