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Herd's on the loose in St. Petersburg city races

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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001

A prodigious number of people, at least 17, are running for five contested seats on the St. Petersburg City Council this month. Friday, the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club had a cattle-call forum for them all.

In District 1, the westernmost part of the city, the candidates are Richard Kriseman and Dennis Homol Sr. Kriseman already is in the seat, chosen after Bob Kersteen ran for the Legislature. Kriseman speaks council-ese very well and supports, let's see, economic development. Who can argue?

Homol is a 10-year city employee, a maintenance mechanic, who figured that with a new mayor and council, "I want to be part of that change." Despite three sons (and, he announced, two ex-wives), he is willing to take the salary cut. Hey, good for him for trying.

District 2 takes in the northern part of the city, and is represented by Bea Griswold, who is leaving because of term limits. She replaced ... Bill Griswold, her husband. So now Bill is running for the seat again, although it was Bea who was hustling around putting the brochures in the seats. I'm pretty sure it was Bill's voice when his lips moved, but I was sittin' kind of far away.

One of Griswold's two opponents is John Bryan, a big, intently friendly fellow who promises "lower taxes and more opportunity" along with "less talk," which, admittedly, would be a relief. The other is Craig Patrick, who TALKS LIKE A TELEVISION REPORTER. WHICH HE WAS. WITH WORDS. CLEARLY. PRONOUNCED. AND FIRM. APPROPRIATE. HAND. GESTURES. I sprayed iced tea toward my seatmate, Martha Lenderman, and we did not hear what he actually said, although I am told the words were fine.

District 4 includes North Shore and the Old Northeast and its current representative, the harmonious Kathleen Ford (kum ba yah!), is running for mayor. So there are four candidates on the ballot: Chris Eaton, Douglas Neil Every, Tiger Bay president Pat "Eat Your Cake and Have It Too" Fulton and Virginia Littrell. Fulton (who ran for mayor in 1993) and Littrell both are pretty knowledgeable. Every wasn't there. Eaton seems like a good guy who has done a lot of overseas humanitarian work.

There also is a District 4 write-in candidate, Grace Harris, who was nervous enough to forget to say her name. Harris is a homemaker who missed the filing deadline, but decided to mount a write-in campaign anyway. I thought she had guts. Her Web site is

District 5 is the southernmost part of the city, previously represented by Larry Williams, who also is running for mayor. The two candidates are Rob Eschenfelder, a former assistant city attorney, and James Bennett, a first-time candidate who owns a lawn service.

Of course Eschenfelder is more knowledgeable, but I also liked something about Bennett -- especially his answer to a City Charter question: "This is my first time running. I'm not going to have an answer to every question."

District 6 includes the south-central and southeastern parts of the city, and has five candidates: Abdul Karim Ali, Ezell Boykins, Chrisshun Cox, Dwight "Chimurenga" Waller and Earnest Williams. Cox didn't show.

Williams holds the seat now, named to fill the vacancy when Frank Peterman went to the Legislature. He was the only candidate in the whole forum to use the phrase "paradigm shift," which definitely was a strike against him. I liked Waller's answers the best but as president of the Uhurus, he probably is not gonna reassure some folks. A lesser man motivated purely by getting elected might have dropped "Chimurenga" from the ballot and stuck with Dwight, but then, what profiteth a man if he runs for City Council and loses his name?

Whew! These 17 will be whittled to 10 in the Feb. 27 primary, when voters cast a ballot only in their local district race. But in the March 27 general election, the whole city will vote in all five races. Bring your program.

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