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Mystery survey focuses on mayor

Published January 12, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Someone has surveyed city residents, asking whether they would agree to alter St. Petersburg's charter so that Mayor Rick Baker could serve a third term.

The poll, commissioned sometime before the Christmas holiday, went on to ask whether residents would favor the creation of a countywide strong mayor, said two men who were questioned, neighborhood activist W.J. Morris and former state Rep. Peter Wallace.

The results of the poll and the identity of the pollsters remain unclear.

Baker, whose second term ends in January 2010, said he had heard about a poll conducted last year, but had not seen the questions or any results. He did not pay for the telephone survey, he said.

Baker went on to say that he is not interested in a third four-year term or in becoming the first mayor of Pinellas County.

"Two terms is going to be plenty for me," said Baker, 50.

Baker would not say whether he knew who had paid for the poll. When pressed, Baker said, "A lot of people do a lot of polls for a lot of things."

But both Morris and Wallace said the poll seemed to be directly tied to Baker, a Republican who, many observers say, has big political aspirations.

The question of term limits, which would require a referendum, was worded specifically for the sitting mayor, Wallace said.

"I assumed that it was Mayor Baker kind of funding the poll," said Wallace, a Democrat who was Florida House speaker from 1994 to 1996.

Morris, who has been critical of Baker's handling of the police and fire departments, said some questions also pertained to current City Council members and prospective mayoral candidates Rene Flowers, Bill Foster and John Bryan.

"The gist of it to me was that the pollsters were trying to gauge the popularity of Mayor Baker," Morris said.

Baker had been considered a front-runner to lead new Gov. Charlie Crist's Department of Community Affairs or the Department of Education. But Baker pulled his name from consideration in November, saying he had the best job in the state.

[Last modified January 12, 2007, 05:53:42]

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