The wait is over, and the unofficial results are in – minus provisional ballots – for the 2021 St. Petersburg municipal election; here are the reactions from an historic night.
After months – and for some, years – of campaigning, a mayoral primary that whittled down eight candidates to two, and after eight years of the Rick Kriseman administration, it did not take long for St. Pete to declare a new mayor.
The Supervisor of Elections Office released the first unofficial results of Tuesday’s election at 7:03 p.m., just three minutes after polling stations closed. The initial results showed Democrat Ken Welch, 57, with a strong lead over Republican Robert Blackmon, 32, with about 64% of the vote to Blackmon’s 36%. Blackmon was able to make up a few percentage points, but with the vast majority of votes received by mail, it was apparent to whom the night belonged.
About 10 minutes after that first update and with many precincts yet to report, Welch declared victory from the Woodson African American Museum of Florida.
The venue was appropriate, as Welch not only became the 54th mayor of the City of St. Petersburg, but he also became the first African American to lead the city in 129 years.
The final, unofficial tally shows Welch with 40,555 votes or 60.48%, and Blackmon receiving 26,499 votes or 39.52%.
Thank you so much, St. Pete. I am honored you have elected me the next Mayor of our incredible city! Because of you, as partners in progress, we will be able to reach new heights.
Thank you again, St. Pete, for believing in our vision—you’ve never let me or my family down. pic.twitter.com/Lkj6P0NbP2
— Ken Welch (@Kenwelch) November 3, 2021
Blackmon conceded not long after Welch declared victory and was gracious in defeat. He congratulated Welch on his historic victory and said he hopes to work with the mayor-elect moving forward.
Kriseman, who strongly endorsed Welch, called his victory proof of St. Pete’s progress and upward trajectory.
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) November 2, 2021
Across the bay, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor called Welch’s victory a win for all of Tampa Bay.
— Jane Castor (@JaneCastor) November 2, 2021
Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said the people of St. Petersburg were lucky to have Welch’s leadership.
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) November 3, 2021
Politicians from outside of the bay area also congratulated Welch on his historic victory.
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) November 3, 2021
While congratulating Welch, World Wrestling Entertainment superstar and Tampa resident Titus O’Neil thanked Kriseman for leaving St. Pete a better place.
Congratulations @Kenwelch on your historic mayoral win as the first African-American to become mayor of @StPeteFL to @Kriseman Thank you fir your service and leadership and for leaving St Pete better than you found it. @Kenwelch @RaysBaseball needs to stay in the Tampa Bay Area🙏🏿
— Titus O’Neil (@TitusONeilWWE) November 3, 2021
In total, 67,355 residents of St. Petersburg voted in Tuesday’s historic election out of 184,974 active eligible voters. This marks a significant increase from the 55,541 ballots cast in the August primary and the 56,640 that voted in 2017 when Kriseman was elected to a second term.