Two weeks out from the August 24th primary election in St. Petersburg, it’s still an open question as to which mayoral candidate has the backing of former two-term mayor Rick Baker.
It became a point of confusion this week when mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon’s camp issued a mailer to Republican voters claiming to have Baker’s backing.
Just two weeks ago, Wengay Newton claimed (or seemed to claim) Baker’s support.
Here’s a run down of what we know so far about who Baker is backing, and how.
Conflicting Campaign Mailers Featuring Baker
In late July, Wengay Newton’s camp funded a mailer that included a letter from Baker applauding Newton’s virtues. The text of the letter was reused in an August 6 advertisement published by The Weekly Challenger newspaper, an African American targeted publication.
But this week, Robert Blackmon’s supporters sent a mailer to Republican voters announcing Baker’s support for his campaign, and featuring a quote by Baker assuring voters that Blackmon’s “experience as a businessman and city council member has prepared him to lead the city.”
Newton’s mailer was paid for by a group called Suncoast Better Government Committee whose top donors include big dollar contributors to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican Party.
The Blackmon postcard was funded by an apparently bi-partisan group called Prosperous St. Petersburg whose largest contributors are Deveron Gibbons and Patrick O’Hara.
Baker’s Money Went to Blackmon, But…
The two candidates’ financial records also send conflicting signals.
Blackmon’s July 7 finance report shows a $1,000 contribution from former Mayor Richard Baker, listing his home address.
Newton’s June 10 report also shows a $1,000 contribution from a person named Richard Baker, but at a different address (2205 24th Avenue in zip code 33712) that we could not verify as an actual structure, using Google Maps, the Property Appraiser website, and a drive by look.
Baker’s Social Media Posts Give Only 1 Clue
Baker’s Facebook posts are few and far between this election cycle, and he hasn’t used his page to endorse either candidate.
In recent months, Baker has done only one post featuring Robert Blackmon (June 16th) and none featuring Wengay Newton.
Who is Doing More to Promote Baker’s Support?
Wengay Newton is doing more (much more) to promote Baker’s support. Newton has done a dozen Facebook posts in the past month that either claim Baker’s support or elevate a supposed beef against Baker by mayoral candidate Ken Welch. Newton has also done at least two mailers featuring the former mayor.
Robert Blackmon hasn’t done any Facebook posts involving Baker over the past 30 days.
TheBurgVotes team is requesting clarification from former mayor Baker as to whether he is officially endorsing either candidate, and whether he is the same Richard Baker who appears on Wengay Newton’s finance reports.