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In St. Petersburg race, it's Baker, Ford and the rest

By HOWARD TROXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001


I will now prove myself the dumbest person in St. Petersburg by venturing a guess, in cold, unforgiving type, as to the outcome of Tuesday's crowded mayoral race.

Any amateur can say, after the fact: "I knew it all along! I had a feeling it was going to come out that way!"

But it takes a seasoned professional to put these things down in ink, in advance, so that he may be properly mocked later.

First, here is an important caveat. This is a guessing game for amusement, not any kind of endorsement. In no way is this a recommendation that you vote one way or another. (If anything, if I were you, I'd go out and vote the opposite way just to be contrary.)

Percent of the vote:

Rick Baker 30

Kathleen Ford 24

Karl Nurse 18

Larry Williams 12

Omali Yeshitela 9

Ronnie Beck 4

Maria Scruggs-Weston 2

Patrick Bailey 1

Louis Miceli 0

* * *

In sum, my guess is a Baker-Ford general election, with Nurse, Williams and Yeshitela following. The other valiant contenders are the low single digits, just as Mary Ann and the Professor failed to get separate billing in the first version of the theme song of Gilligan's Island. (They were known, cruelly, as "And The Rest.")

Okay, now let's second-guess.

First -- how tiresome it is that the newspaper's lackey columnist would follow the conventional wisdom, and put Baker in first place! He must be obeying his heavy-handed editorial board!

Second -- Kathleen Ford is too divisive! How in the world can you put her in second place?

Third -- Karl Nurse is an amazingly qualified guy! How can you place him behind Ford?

Fourth -- Larry Williams is the most knowledgeable City Hall veteran in the whole bunch, and has served his community with his whole heart. How can you disrespect him so?

And so forth. All such comments are examples of the Fallacy of Desired Result -- in short, I like this one, so I predict that he gets a lot of votes. Wrong.

My own febrile speculation goes like this: Baker finishes well due to the sheer momentum of heavy objects. It is not like he's run a great race. His recent campaign has been more like Weekend at Bernie's, which, you will recall, is a movie about a dead guy propped up by others to look alive. In this case, the proppers would be the newspaper, the downtown folks and current and former mayors -- to wit, the Establishment. That, and a bunch of big signs, still gets him first place.

Ford is the most controversial pick. Many others would place Nurse or Williams next. But I guesstimate her into second place because she has more than one base of support. In addition to the Northshore old guard, she inherits some of the dissatisfied voters who supported the last anti-City Hall candidate, Bill Klein, in 1997. Look at her campaign signs -- they are mostly on the property of people, not businesses.

Nurse is incredibly qualified. In my humble opinion, so is Williams. Omali Yeshitela has run a strong, unifying campaign. I like Beck and Scruggs-Weston. Even Miceli has given refreshingly honest answers during the campaign.

But I stand pat. Snail-mail me your own predictions with today's postmark, or e-mail me before the polls close Tuesday (troxler@sptimes.com), and if you're the better guesser, I will let you lord it all over me in print. Otherwise, as the saying goes, forever hold your peas. I won't need you to tell me how wrong I was.

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