Tampa City Elections results by Mitch E. Perry

03/07/07
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday

 

There were some suprises in last night’s Tampa Municipal elections, but not in the top leadership position.  Mayor Pam Iorio crushed her two opponents, taking 79% of the vote.  Former Police Lieutenant Marion Lewis came in 2nd with 12%, and former Fire Chief Aria Green came in 3rd with 8% of the vote.

 

But the excitement was in several City Council races.  6 of the 7 races were up for election…Only the District 3 race, where longtime Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena faced no opposition, was not on the ballot.

 

District One was the richest in candidates.  Gwen Miller was the incumbent – but she was perceived to be so vulnerable that no fewer than 5 different candidates decided to run against her.  Miller did get the most votes last night, at 27%, but coming in  a close 2nd was business entrepreneur Joe Redner who came in 2nd at 23%, which means the 2 will face in each other in a run-off in 3 weeks.

 

Redner said last night that Miller isn’t doing enough for Tampa Citizens (roll tape#1 o.q.”

But not for every problem”)

 

Redner’s success last night is an upset.  Most local analysts interviewed by WMNF before the election discounted the owner of the world famous Mons Venus night club, even though he had his best success ever in local electoral politics last November, when he lost in a Hillsborough County wide race against Commission Chairman Jim Norman.


But in that race, Norman spent a lot more money.  He ran television ads, and held more campaign events.  Some analysts said he didn’t appear as motivated in this race.  But Redner said his strategy was different this time around (roll tape#2 o.q.”The City of Tampa”)

 

If Redner were to be successful and get on the Council, his rhetoric indicates that he would be a voice against developers not paying their fair share .  His campaign signs read, ”Growth Must Pay for itself “(roll tape#3 o.q.”should pay for itself”)

 

Finishing in3rd place, with 15% of the vote was businesswomen Julie Jenkins.  She received a little over 300 more votes than Denise Chavez.  Finishing in 5th place was West Tampa restaurant owner Rick Barcena, and stunningly, Seminole Heights activist Randy Baron came in last, with just 10% of the vote.

 

Baron had been endorsed by both The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times.  At his campaign party Tuesday night at the Front Porch restaurant, Baron said his poor showing was a blow to the neighborhood.   He acknowledged that Gwen Miller and Joe Redner had far greater name recognition than he did , especially outside his own Seminole Heights stronghold  (roll tape#4 o.q.so…next time I will”)

 

Now that it’s Gwen Miller vs. Joe Redner, Randy Baron says he’ll give serious consideration to possibly endorsing Redner later this month (roll tape#5 o.q.”of the entire city”)

 

Perhaps the biggest story of the night was in the City wide District 2 race, where

Underdog Mary Mulhern, outspent by a more than 4 to 1 margin, squeezed by New Tampa incumbent Shawn Harrison, winning by 588 votes in a race out of over 25,000 votes. 

 

Mulhern was a relative unknown a year ago – but gained tremendous name recognition last year when she ran an uphill campaign against Rose Ferlita for a Hillsborough County Commission seat.  That race was not close, but her dogged campaign got her name recognition – and an upset victory last night.   She says  she’ll bring a fresh perspective to the City Council (roll tape#6 o.q.”trying to buy influence”)

 

In his television commercials, Shawn Harrison boasted that he was a ‘real tax cutter’.  Harrison , along with former Councilwoman Rose Ferlita, did lead the charge last year to provide a property tax cut for Tampa Citizens….Later on, after citizens demanded one at Council budget hearings, the entire Council followed his lead in voting for such a cut, which was relatively modest.  New City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern says that the issue of Property taxes needs to be dealt with by the state legislature (roll tape#7 o.q.”significant way”)

 

We’ll have more on the Harrison Mulhern race in a moment.

 

The most intense race was in District 4, where incumbent John Dingfelder easily defeated former City Attorney Julie Brown, by a 53 to 42 percent margin.  Most analysts predicted the race would be close – and some outright predicted a Brown victory.

 

Both candidates spent nearly $150,000 in the race, that now pays $40,000 a year. 

There was controversial tactics on both sides.  Dingfelder was accused of shaking down one constituent for a campaign contribution, while Julie Brown received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from friends, associates, and employees of car dealer Jason Kuhn. 

 

Brown aired radio ads against Dingfelder, and was assisted by a 3rd party group that sent out negative brochures.  Dingfelder said the attacks ads worked against Julie Brown

(roll tape#8 o.q.”I don’t know what to say about that”)

 

During an environmental forum last month, Dingelder said he was FOR development – but development in the downtown Tampa district – and not in the suburban areas

(roll tape#9 o.q.”our more suburban environment”)

 

In District 5, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Thomas Scott edged out interim Council member Frank Reddick and Tracy Judge.

 

In District 6, Charlie Miranda, who was first elected to the City Council in the 1970’s and lost against Pam Iorio in a run for Mayor 4 years ago, crushed challenger Lisa Tamargo 71 to 29%.

 In the New Tampa area, District 7, there will be a runoff, with Joseph Catanano and Frank Margarella running against each other…Only 446 votes separated the 2 men, with Catanano getting more votes.  But surprisingly, Charles Perkins, who was missing in action in most of the public forums during the campaign, came in 3rd, but was only 90 votes shy of getting into the runoff against Caetano.

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