Former Democratic state Rep. Rick Kriseman has opened a significant gap in campaign over incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster.
Kriseman, who has held fundraisers in Tallahassee and St. Petersburg, reported raising more than $51,000 in the first three months of the year, according to a campaign finance report filed Wednesday.
Foster, who has yet to begin campaigning in earnest, said he has raised about $25,000. He had not filed a campaign report as of 5 p.m. when the city clerk’s office closed. Candidates can mail in their reports, provided they are postmarked no later than Wednesday’s deadline.
Kriseman’s strong early showing proves that donors view him as a credible challenger, said Darryl Paulson, a political science professor at University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
“Fifty-one thousand dollars for a first reporting period for a challenger is a very respectable start for anyone who is taking on an incumbent mayor,” Paulson said. “If I was Mayor Foster, I would take this as a warning shot across the bow that this will be a very tough campaign. He’s going to have to get organized.”
In addition to Kriseman, Anthony Cates and Paul Congemi are also running for mayor. Cates did not receive any donations, according to his report. Congemi did not file a report as of the Wednesday deadline.
Kriseman’s sizeable campaign war-chest may deter other potential challengers, such as former Councilwoman Kathleen Ford, from running, Paulson said.
“The good start he’s had makes it much more difficult for another challenger to get in the race,” Paulson said. “He wants to try and keep the race as a two-person race and not waste resources in a primary and general election.”
Kriseman, who announced his candidacy Feb. 11, received 236 donations in the first quarter of 2013, including some from Tallahassee law firms.
“This first milestone speaks to the people in St. Petersburg wanting to return to the days of progress and forward-thinking leadership,” Kriseman said in a statement. “Over the next few months I look forward to sharing my vision for moving St. Petersburg forward with voters from all corners of the city.”
Foster, who raised about $250,000 during his successful 2009 campaign, said previously that he plans to ramp up his campaign this month.
Candidates running for four seats on the city council this year also reported campaign donations Wednesday.
Incumbent Jim Kennedy has raised $1,500 toward his bid to win re-election in District 2.
In the competitive District 4 race, local activist Darden Rice, a two-time former candidate, reported $25,000 in contributions roughly three times as much as opponent David McKallip, a neurosurgeon, blogger and frequent critic of the City Council.
Mckalip’s reported donations of $8,700 include a $1,000 personal loan.
Sharon Russ, a former candidate for mayor who is the sole candidate in the District 6 City Council race, has not raised any money, according to her report. Incumbent Karl Nurse has indicated he will challenge Russ to keep his seat.
In District 8, William Hurley has raised $590. He is running against Alexander Duensing, who has raised almost $2,000.
Qualifying is in June, and the election is Aug. 27.