St. Pete’s mayoral race heats up with ad using Congemi’s ‘Go back to Africa’ rant

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — St. Petersburg’s mayoral race is heating up ahead of Tuesday’s primaries.

Campaign ads have been running for Mayor Rick Kriseman and candidate Rick Baker, seen as the top two contenders.

In Baker’s latest ad, he uses candidate Paul Congemi’s racist rant to call out Kriseman.

“If you don’t like it here in America, go back to Africa,” Congemi said during a debate in July.

In the ad, Baker responded to Congemi’s comments saying, “In 2017 in St. Pete, Florida, I never would have dreamed we would have heard comments like that at a mayoral debate.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman did not address Congemi’s comments at that moment, but later released a statement condemning his actions.

Baker said Mayor Kriseman should have condemned the comments immediately.

“Did not even address it and he didn’t address it for 24 hours until he was pressured to address it,” said Baker.

Both Mayor Kriseman and Baker made last minute get out to vote efforts on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s primaries. During his push, Kriseman addressed the ad again.

“So in my mind when it happened, I was disgusted. You can tell by the look on my face, but I didn’t want to give him any credibility. Afterwards, I thought maybe I should have said something because certainly what he said was reprehensible,” said Kriseman.

Kriseman also said Baker was quick to condemn Congemi’s rhetoric, but not the president’s.

“Paul Congemi is not going to impact our lives but our president will and not saying something about our president, I think carries a lot more weight,” said Kriseman. “I think the voters have a very clear distinction between the two of us and different philosophies.”

“I’m going to be focused on city issues,” Baker said. “Rick Kriseman, for the last four years, is more focused on national political partisan issues than making his own city better.”

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m.

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