Uhuru candidates qualify to run in St. Petersburg mayoral, city council races

ST. PETERSBURG — Despite trailing in local polls and fundraising totals, two political candidates with the Uhuru International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement stood on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday and proclaimed their “people’s movement” was winning.

Jesse Nevel, 27, is running for mayor. Eritha “Akile” Cainion, 20, is running for the City Council seat in District 6. Both announced that they have qualified for their respective races.

Technically, they won’t qualify until the qualifying period opens June 8. But Cainion paid her $150 fee to get on the ballot. Nevel submitted 1,000 verified signatures. The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections signed off on their validity last month, said St. Petersburg City Clerk Chan Srinivasa.

“That means that reparations is on the ballot,” said Cainion.

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Both Nevel and Cainion pledged that, if elected, their top budget priority would be for the city to pay reparations to its black residents. In the past, Nevel has said reparations are needed to repay black residents for decades of discrimination, segregation, job discrimination and artificially low wages.

They also advocate returning the 85-acre Tropicana Field site — a valuable parcel ripe for redevelopment whether the Tampa Bay Rays stay or go — back to the black community to be used for economic development and affordable housing. The city evicted residents, businesses and even churches from the Gas Plant community — an aging, predominantly black neighborhood — to build the dome, which opened in 1990.

The two Uhuru candidates called the current city government corrupt and said it’s being controlled by developers that want to gentrify the city. They said it is time for voters to reject incumbent Rick Kriseman and his challenger, former two-term mayor Rick Baker, in favor of a new path.

The Uhuru campaign slogan? “A new beginning: Radical times, Radical solutions.”

Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker a Republican. But Nevel said the two Ricks are virtually the same candidate.

“The opponent is still the same,” Nevel said, “which is the status quo.”

If elected mayor, Nevel said he would place a five-year moratorium on all high-rises and skyscrapers downtown.

“Sorry, John Catsimatidis, not sorry,” quipped Nevel, referring to the New York billionaire who recently purchased the city block between Central Avenue and First Avenue S and Fourth and Fifth Streets, and has said he’d like to build a residential high-rise on the parcel.

Nevel also said “somebody needs to go to jail” because of the city’s two-year sewage crisis. He said worker’s councils should be set up to run the Water Resources Department, which has spilled or discharged 200 million gallons since August 2015.

The primary is Aug. 29. The general election is Nov. 7.