Who Is Rick Kriseman? Obama Breaks Silence and Endorses Mayoral Candidate in Florida

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his keynote speech to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce at Montreal's Palais de congrès on June 6. Obama has endorsed a mayoral candidate in Florida. REUTERS

Former President Barack Obama has officially involved himself in a local election in Florida, endorsing St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for re-election. 

Kriseman was an early Obama supporter during the 2008 presidential election, so the former president appears to be returning a favor. 

In a draft statement obtained by Politico, Obama stated, "From raising the minimum wage and fighting for equality, to bold leadership on climate change, Rick was a great ally on the priorities of my administration. I strongly endorse Rick Kriseman as the only choice for continued progress for St. Petersburg.”

On Friday, Kriseman took to Twitter to thank Obama for his support. 

According to Politico, Kriseman's campaign is in trouble (as is the Democratic Party in Florida in general), which makes Obama's endorsement significant. 

Kriseman seems to recognize this, given he retweeted Politico reporter Gabriel Debenedetti‏'s message highlighting how close the race is. 

The current frontrunner in the St. Petersburg race is Rick Baker, a former mayor of the city. Current polls reportedly show Baker with about 50 percent of support in the primary, which is set to be held on Tuesday. If he gets more than half of the vote, he will win outright, eliminating the possibility of a runoff in November. 

Obama's endorsement of Kriseman is reportedly meant to help increase support for him among African-American voters, a demographic he's been struggling to win over. 

Whether Obama's endorsement will gain Kriseman the support he needs for a runoff to occur remains to be seen, but it certainly can't hurt. 

The former president's endorsement of Kriseman represents one of his most political moments in 2017 thus far. In his post-presidency, Obama has only weighed in on two other political campaigns: endorsing Eric Garcetti in the Los Angeles mayoral race in February (Garcetti won) and Emmanuel Macron during France's presidential election in May (Macron also won). 

In general, though, Obama has not been particularly outspoken about politics since his tenure ended, even in the face of repeated verbal (and Twitter) attacks from President Donald Trump

Obama's relative silence has been met with mixed responses. Some would like to see him step forward and counter Trump's rhetoric in a far more forceful way.

Following the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Obama tweeted a quote from Nelson Mendela about combating hate; it is now the most liked tweet in history. Based on that overwhelming reaction, it's probably safe to say that many yearn for increased input from Obama in the Trump era.