One of St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster's primary campaign ads asked potential voters to "remember how things used to be?"
Judging by a recent poll, voters appear to not only remember how things used to be but appreciate how things are now. They also appear to be eyeing changes for the future.
According to an exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll, St. Petersburg voters overwhelmingly feel the city is headed in the right direction, but they do not seem confident Foster should remain in the mayor’s chair.
Of those polled, 72 percent agreed the city is headed in a positive direction. The number is even higher among 18-54 year-olds (75 percent) and men (73 percent).
Foster and challenger Rick Kriseman, a St. Petersburg native and former state legislator, have laid out their visions for the city in recent debates and mayoral forums. The two have weighed in at various points of the campaign on the economy, crime, the Rays stadium debate, the city's police chase policy and the Pier.
While the men have agreed on some issues, mainly small business development, the rivals have different viewpoints on how to spend money to spur that economic development and other ways to best improve the city.
Foster has talked about the possibility of a cruise port terminal opening near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, while Kriseman said his vision for the city includes research parks for marine sciences, health sciences and clean energy. Both have stressed that a definite plan is needed surrounding the ongoing pier controversy and any development there.
Foster points to his time in office as successful.
"You can't look at the city skyline without seeing a crane, without 200 trades on the job, knowing every one of those places will be occupied and jobs will be created,” Foster said. “We focused on the details, so having tens of millions of dollars less than my predecessors, guess what, we did more with less than anybody."
Kriseman, meanwhile, has repeatedly taken issue with Foster's record in office, specifically the closing of the Midtown Sweetbay.
“If he was at the table at HMA, the he surely must have known about the subsequent sale that was going to happen," Kriseman said. "If he was at the table at Sweetbay, you should have known that Sweetbay was going to be closing. But nothing happened for a year, so if he was at the table, I don't know what he was doing while he was sitting there."
Polling data was much closer when voters were asked who their candidate of choice was if they were voting today.
Foster trailed Kriseman overall where 40 percent of the pollsters said they would vote for the challenger while 39 percent said they would vote for the current mayor. In fact, Kriseman was the choice for voters aged 55 and older (40 percent to 37 percent), among female voters (41 percent to 38 percent) and among white voters (41 percent to 39 percent).
Black voters remain tied (38 percent Kriseman, 38 percent Foster) while Foster holds a slight edge among voters 18-54 (41 percent to 39 percent) and men (40 percent to 39 percent).
During the primary campaign, polls show Foster with the lead but Kriseman with a campaign funding advantage.
In previous polls, many voters said they had not decided how they would vote.
Election Day is Nov. 5.
• Surveys were conducted September 14-17, 2013 using a random sample of St. Petersburg registered voters.
• The data were weighted to reflect the age, gender and race of St. Petersburg registered voters.
• Results reported here are for those who say they definitely or probably plan to vote in the November 5 mayoral election (N=410, maximum sampling error +/-4.8 percentage points).
• The Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 were identified as the survey sponsors.
• The survey averaged about two minutes in length.
• Surveys were administered by Braun Research, a national polling firm based in Princeton, NJ.