5 candidates take stage in St. Pete mayoral debate

- Five of the candidates for mayor of St. Petersburg faced off in a debate that took on a muted tone, compared to those previous.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, Former Mayor Rick Baker, activists Theresa Lassiter and Jesse Nevel, and businessman Anthony Cates, took the stage at Mount Zion Church on S 16th Street.

They all had equal time, which gave the lesser-known candidates a chance to strike against the mayor and former mayor.

"No candidate can I say I am backed by corporate interests and big business," said Cates.

Jesse Nevel, who is backed by the Uhuru activist organization, claimed his familiar mantle.

"Justice has to start with reparations to the black community," he said.

Theresa Lassiter argued for job creation and said she was well known in the community.

"I am going to beat both of y'all," she said to the two mayors.

The mayor and former mayor spent less time than usual on the attack, and more on the broad outlines of their candidacy, tailored to their South St. Pete audience.

"I don't want to just have not failing schools in our city," said Baker. "I want to have great public schools in our city."

Mayor Kriseman argued, even as the incumbent, for change.

"I'll keep trying something new until we figure out how to do it right, and how to make a real change, and live up to that vision of who we want to be as a city," he said.

There was only sparse mention of the sewer issue, which exploded again Wednesday night with another, albeit relatively small, spill.

"We already have a plan in place. We have started implementing it. We are $60 million into it," said Kriseman.

Baker continued to make it a signature issue.

"I would immediately do everything we could to identify real costs," said Baker.

The debate was the third in a long summer of encounters.

Just last week, one turned to chaos as supporters of Jesse Nevel demanded, and took the floor. The two Ricks - with their campaign staffs and TV ads - are trying to steer the race.

But with agreements for the lesser-known candidates to debate further, X-factors abound.

"The solution is workers councils within water resources that can preside over a real plan," said Nevel.

Mayor Kriseman said he expected to be attacked more than the other candidates.

"That comes from being an incumbent," he said during an interview afterward.

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