Not ready to back down: St. Petersburg Commissioner Steve Kornell fights the power and wins

By : Jeremy Williams
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During a critical year for the St. Petersburg city commission, where the shadow to the Tampa Bay Rays loomed over the election, Steve Kornell was able to retain his seat against all odds and without an endorsement from the area’s largest newspaper.

The Tampa Bay Times wrote many articles about Kornell this past year as he was fighting to get re-elected in District 5. Kornell opposed the deal by St. Petersburg mayor RickKriseman that would allow the Rays to look for stadium sites outside of St. Petersburg, but within the region.

The Times hurled attacks and insults and ultimately endorsed Kornell’s opponent in the race.

“There was no dialogue brought to the table; it was do what we say or else,” Kornell says. “I’m never going to cave into that whether it’s the Times telling me to shut up and give the Rays all the money they want or if it’s some homophobic people telling me not to talk about being gay, I’m going to do what I think is right.”

That stand by your morals is what has led Kornell to do what he sees best for the city of St. Pete, even when it isn’t the popular response. That is admirable, but don’t tell him it’s courageous.

“There are kids out there who have fought the whole world to start a GSA at their school; that’s courage. Taking a stand on not giving away hundreds of millions of tax dollars and having some rich, powerful people get angry at you over that one issue, that’s not courage. That should be easy,” Kornell says.

In a year dominated by the coverage of the Rays, Kornell has been fighting for equal rights, against conflict minerals and defending the environment.
Along with being named one of Watermark’s most remarkable, he was also awarded the Black Bear Award this year for his work on environmental issues in St. Pete.

“I care about a variety of issues. If you only care about one issue then this is probably not the job for you,” Kornell says.

Even without the endorsement of the Tampa Bay Times, Kornell was still able to motivate the voters in St. Petersburg and won his election with 56 percent of the vote – a margin of victory he was not at all surprised about.

“When you’re doing what’s right and standing up for what you believe in, there’s nothing to worry about,” Kornell says.

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