Sadly, as I write this editorial, we are witnessing a great divide in the St. Petersburg black community as a result of the mayoral race between the Republican challenger former Mayor Rick Baker and the Democrat incumbent Mayor Rick Baker. The community has been ripped right down the middle resulting in nasty and insulting rhetoric by community leaders and residents, played out on social media and even in the streets and at political gatherings.
There has been an infusion of racism into the campaigns in such a way that has split the community right down the middle. Here’s the question…which candidate benefits the most from a divided black electorate? It has always been the Republican candidate who benefits the most due to the fact that the black community has always voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.
Thus, Baker has continued to fan the flames of an already fiery and tension-filled racist and political situation in black America due to the Trump presidency. For the sake of winning at all costs, Baker entered the race with an obvious agenda of winning as many black votes even at the expense of ripping a community in half.
We cannot let him succeed. Baker has thrown the race card into the fray and has hidden his hand. He knew he could conquer half of the black electorate simply by implying that Mayor Kriseman is a racist who does not care about black residents.
But look around all those red Baker signs and see that under Kriseman’s administration, St. Petersburg has been heralded nationally as a city on the move. Jobs are up, crime is down. Mayor Kriseman is out in the forefront of the effort to prepare our city for a changing climate and rising seas.
Along with his cohort Trump, Baker has continued to deny the science behind the obvious. Mayor Kriseman envisions a city for all of its residents enjoying the rewards and the opportunities to take St. Petersburg to an even higher level and make it a wonderfully diverse place in which to live and strive.
The work that Mayor Kriseman has begun in our city must continue. Under Kriseman, St. Petersburg continues to be one the best places to live in the U. S. and is one of the fastest growing urban centers in terms of job growth, median household income and is listed as one of the top 30 places in America to do business, all according to Forbes Lists.
Kriseman has a workable plan to address the growing problem of unaffordable housing. Why should the city go in an entirely different direction under Baker now? It makes no sense.
Baker has touted his several handouts to the black community while mayor that included bringing in a grocery store, a credit union and a full-service post office. These are handouts given to a community where the demand is no longer for handouts but for equal access to create our own business and opportunities. Not as the “Midtown” area residents but as St. Petersburg residents.
So Baker, the “handout candidate,” who only seems to be able to point to a failed grocery store and a credit union funded under the Kriseman administration, want our community to change from an upward path and return back to an era of handouts by Republican Baker.
Baker cannot run away from the fact that he supported racist Donald Trump. He chose to rip the black community apart for the sake of regaining whatever he thought he had accomplished in the black community. This is a classic divide and conquer tactic that the black community knows all too well. Perhaps it will take years to repair the breaches, bad blood and tattered relationships now prevailing in the black community.
Baker, knowingly or perhaps unknowingly has redrawn the great divide in our city right along Central Avenue. He invented a “Midtown” that doesn’t even include all of south St. Pete. He has pushed St. Petersburg residents into the areas that will benefit him and his Trump-like agenda.
Donald Trump went to Washington to reverse all of the gains made under President Barack Obama because of his dislike for President Obama. It is the opinion of many in the black community that Baker will implement the same dark reversal of gains made under Mayor Kriseman because of the obvious success of our mayor.
St. Petersburg, we cannot allow ourselves to go back to the way it used to be. Let’s continue to move forward on the successful path under Mayor Kriseman who has the trusted experience to address the tough issues our city face. To move us forward as one St. Petersburg…not split us back down the Central Avenue middle.
The choice is obvious. Therefore, as a veteran, a pastor, a private citizen and a St. Petersburg resident, I endorse and support Mayor Kriseman in his bid for re-election.
Dr. G. Gregg Murray, D.Min.
Pastor, Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church
St. Petersburg, FL