Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch launched another digital ad this week in his bid for St. Petersburg Mayor highlighting his commitment to community service, empowering and improving the Black community and creating a safer St. Pete.
The ad, entitled “Safe for Everyone,” begins with Welch driving to the Dr. David T. Welch Center for Progress & Community Development, named after his father.
“My family wanted this space to support progress by helping ex-offenders with job training,” the ad begins before facing a harsh reality. “Recently, an innocent bystander was killed by gunfire here — feet from the sign honoring my Dad’s community service.”
The center is part of the flagship office for the group People Empowering & Restoring Communities, or PERC. The program works with the city of St. Pete, Pinellas County government and community partners to create employment, businesses and opportunities on the Southside.
“As Mayor, I’ll address the root causes of crime,” Welch promises in the ad. “I’ve held a community forum and a youth summit and I’ll keep listening. I won’t be afraid to address the violence that especially impacts the Black community and the guns on our streets.
Welch ends the ad with a promise that “this city can’t be great for everyone until it’s safe for everyone.”
The ad touches on a key issue facing mayoral candidates this cycle. This is the first city election since Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets last summer across the nation, including in St. Pete, to protest police brutality and systemic racism in reaction to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer. Since then, issues of race have taken center stage in political discourse both locally and abroad.
In St. Pete, it is a particularly salient issue as leaders, and future potential leaders, prepare to finalize plans for redeveloping the 86-acre Tropicana Field site. An entire neighborhood of Black residents was displaced in the late ’70s and early ’80s to make room for the stadium. The razed neighborhood was once a thriving community full of Black-owned businesses and families who ran them.
The displacement is today recognized as a driving force behind the city’s long-standing economic struggles in South St. Pete, where most families relocated after being forced from the stadium site.
All of the city’s mayoral candidates have acknowledged the need to honor the Black community with new site plans and all have different ideas on how to accomplish that.
As one of only two Black candidates on the mayoral ballot, however, Welch as a particular stake in the outcome.
Welch is currently the top-polling candidate in the race, as of the most recent publicly available poll from St. Pete Polls in late June. Other candidates are polling not far behind including City Council members Darden Rice and Robert Blackmon and former City Council member Wengay Newton, the second Black candidate in the race. Pete Boland polled in the single digits in that survey, but has since posted strong fundraising and aired a series of prime time ads, including during the recently concluded Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Primary Election is Aug. 24. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in that race, a high likelihood given the crowded field, the top two vote-getters will face off in the Nov. 2 General Election.