A large crowd cheered Mayor Rick Kriseman and several council members Thursday morning as they vowed to rid St. Petersburg of big money influencing local elections.
Kriseman, who has raised nearly $1 million for his reelection effort, praised a proposed ordinance that would limit donations to political action committees to $5,000 and ban contributions from corporations with significant foreign ownership in city elections was a “righteous” cause.
“I look forward to the day where millions of dollars aren’t making their way into a mayor’s race or any race in this city,” Kriseman said.
His opponent, former mayor Rick Baker, has raised well north of $1 million in his effort to unseat Kriseman. Baker has said he opposes the measure.
Council chairwoman Darden Rice, who has led the effort to pass the “Defend our Democracy” ordinance, told about 50 people gathered outside City Hall for a early morning rally that she had fought for other causes once considered longshots: combating climate change and implementing curbside recycling.
She said local campaign finance reform would also eventually become law.
City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch’s office has warned that adopting the ordinance is unconstitutional and would invite lawsuits that could cost the city millions.
“Sometimes our attorneys can be wrong,” Rice said, adding that attorneys were trying to “scare” council members and residents about the proposal. “St. Pete is going to step up and say no.”
Council members Karl Nurse and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman also spoke in support of the ordinance. District 6 candidate Gina Discroll, who is hoping to replace the term-limited Nurse, attended the rally.
The council is expected to vote this morning on the ordinance, which needs five votes to pass. Three members voted against it earlier this year: Jim Kennedy, Ed Montanari and Steve Kornell.
Council member Amy Foster voted to advance the measure, but voiced concerns at a June committee meeting.