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Candidates differ by degrees

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- On paper, the District 2 City Council race looks like a fight between opposites. Establishment against grass roots. Big money versus little money.

But John Bryan and Craig Patrick don't characterize their contest in such classic terms.

Instead, each candidate tries hard to convey his stands on a few core issues.

Economic growth, water management and how best to make St. Petersburg a good place to live are the themes they've pounded at a series of forums leading up to Tuesday's general election.

Patrick and Bryan differ on each subject, if sometimes by just a shade. For example, both oppose a building moratorium to combat the water shortage, but Bryan is more vehement.

"You'd throw a lot of people out of work," said Bryan, a former home builder who manages commercial property.

Said Patrick, a public relations executive: "We need to be very careful in the type of growth we bring to the area."

Rarely mentioned on the campaign trail are differences in the candidates' war chests and supporters.

Bryan, 50, is a lifelong city resident who has collected $21,287.50, the most of any council candidate. On his campaign literature, he lists the names of many well-connected St. Petersburg residents as among his supporters. His campaign co-chairmen are Randy Wedding, a former mayor, and Bill Davenport, a former City Council member and longtime figure in downtown legal and banking circles.

Bryan downplays any connection to the downtown establishment.

"I've never been an insider downtown. I'm not active with the chamber," Bryan said. "I have a lot of friends considered in that circle, but I've never been in it."

Patrick, 28, has lived here three years. His campaign contributions total a modest $5,860. He touts among his supporters several neighborhood activists, and former state legislator Lars Hafner is a campaign consultant.

Bryan lists his net worth at more than $1-million. Patrick lists his as less than $50,000, and filed an affidavit of undue burden to avoid paying the $233.37 state assessment fee to run for the council.

"Nearly all my equity is in my home," said Patrick, who will marry in April. "When you are in the throes of planning a wedding, basically any expense beyond putting food on the table is an undue burden."

Bryan won last month's primary with 45 percent of the vote in District 2, which includes the Gandy Boulevard area and apartment complexes along Fourth Street N. But Patrick surprised many by finishing second with 35 percent of the vote.

Even in the context of the mild candidate sparring sometimes heard at forums, the District 2 candidates have had no harsh words for each other as they campaign for votes in the citywide general election. They say it's because they've concentrated on their messages.

One of Bryan's major themes is stimulating economic growth through creation of jobs, including some in the Challenge area south of Central Avenue. Bryan wants to get the Dome Industrial Park project moving, assemble land and bring in employers comparable to those found in the Carillon area.

"We're talking about 600 to 1,000 jobs in a heartbeat. But it takes the power of the city to put that land together," Bryan said.

Patrick, too, has talked of jobs and work force education. He also has suggested establishing a civil rights museum.

"In Birmingham, you'll find a whole (civil rights) district restored, and that's what should be in St. Petersburg," said Patrick, who is from Alabama and spent time in Birmingham as a television news reporter.

"There's no better way to build a stronger economic base than to bring us together. This is a positive way of doing that," Patrick said.

Both candidates favor regional solutions to the water crisis. Patrick has advocated graduated fees to charge big users more. Bryan points to recent news that St. Petersburg has managed to cut its demand.

"The reality is," Bryan said, "that we've done a good job."

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