The race was contentious, the costliest in history and nine months long, but in what felt like a moment, a majority of voters made clear what they wanted — a new man to lead them.

Just minutes after 7 p.m. Tuesday, the election all but ended when results from absentee ballots showed Rick Kriseman with a commanding 10-point lead over Mayor Bill Foster. Kriseman finished the night with 56 percent of the vote to Foster’s 44 percent.

When Kriseman announced his candidacy in February, few people gave the 51-year-old former state lawmaker and City Council member a reasonable chance to win. He hadn’t been on a citywide ballot in six years.

But at 8:30 p.m., Kriseman emerged wide-eyed and grinning from a curtained back room at the banquet hall Nova 535. Hundreds shouted and clapped as cameras flashed. With his family behind him, he weaved through a raucous crowd to take the stage. He read from a statement, thanking all involved in his victory: family, campaign staff, volunteers and especially voters.

“They knew a strong city deserved a strong mayor,” he said. “And they understand the positive impact City Hall can have on our economy, our neighborhoods and our schools.”

Foster is the first incumbent to lose the job since residents approved a strong-mayor form of government in 1993. David Fischer and Rick Baker both won second terms.

Click here for the story in Tampa Bay Times.

Rick Kriseman wins St. Petersburg mayor’s race | Tampa Bay Times
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