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Runoff election will decide Tampa's mayor's race, four City Council seats

TAMPA — Tampa voters, you know it's bad when Jacksonville calls you lame, but it's happening.

Both cities hold municipal elections today, and Jacksonville politicians are dissing Tampa's 22 percent voter turnout on March 1.

"That is pathetic," Duval County GOP chairman Lenny Curry says. "We need to beat it."

Fortunately, Tampa voters can redeem themselves today in the city's runoff election. They will elect either former City Council member Bob Buckhorn or former County Commissioner Rose Ferlita to replace Pam Iorio, who is leaving the mayor's office because of term limits.

Voters also will choose four City Council members.

Two will be elected in citywide races: Curtis Stokes and Mike Suarez meet in District 1, and Yvonne Yolie Capin and Chris Hart are running in District 3.

In South Tampa's District 4, Harry Cohen faces Julie Jenkins. And in New Tampa's District 7, Lisa Montelione faces Charlie Perkins.

So far the news is good about turnout for the runoff.

As of late Monday, a total of 18,460 voters had either cast ballots during early voting or mailed in an absentee ballot. That's more than voted early or by mail for the primary and is getting close to half of the nearly 42,000 people who voted during the primary.

And unlike March 1, when it rained, the weather should not get in voters' way.

"It's going to be another beautiful day," said Bay News 9 forecaster Mike Clay, who expects a sunny day with a high near 80.

All of which has elections officials anticipating that voter participation will improve from the primary to the runoff, which is the opposite of what usually happens.

"We're certainly hopeful and prepared for that," Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections spokesman Travis Abercrombie said.

On Monday, both candidates in the mayor's race spent the last hours of the campaign knocking on doors (Buckhorn worked Beach Park) or waving signs at motorists (Ferlita was on Bayshore Boulevard).

As passing motorists honked, Ferlita said she felt "pretty good" that the campaign was ending with "one last-ditch effort to get out the vote."

"We just don't want to miss one opportunity," she said as more than 50 supporters in green T-shirts waved signs, chanted and cheered her on.

"It's wonderful," she said of the support. "You start with these people at 6:30 (a.m.), you can't get tired. You're the candidate, and they're doing this just because they believe in you."

In campaign finance reports filed Friday and Monday, Buckhorn and Ferlita reported raising $335,000 and $198,000, respectively, during the last two weeks of the campaign.

Virtually all of that money has been spent to deliver a message to voters and get voters to the polls.

"We've got people out walking now, waving signs," Buckhorn said. "A campaign is like an athletic competition. You plan to peak on game day. Everything we've done is geared toward peaking (Tuesday)."

Richard Danielson can be reached at or (813) 226-3403.

Vote today

• Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters should bring a current ID with their photo and signature.

• To find your polling place, visit and click on "Precinct Finder."

• If you still have an absentee ballot that you have not mailed, you must take it to the Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. for it to be counted. Elections officials say don't take an absentee ballot to your voting precinct.

• For detailed coverage of the races for mayor and City Council, go to

Mayor's race

The job

The mayor serves a four-year term and is paid $150,000 annually. Under Tampa's strong-mayor form of government, the mayor exercises broad authority over the city budget, personnel, economic development and public safety.

The candidates

Bob Buckhorn, 52, was an aide to former Mayor Sandy Freedman and served on the Tampa City Council from 1995 to 2003. He owns a public affairs firm. Education: bachelor of arts in political science, Penn State University. Personal: married to Dr. Cathy Lynch Buckhorn; two daughters: Grace, 9, and Colleen, 5. Net worth: $800,000.

Rose Ferlita, 65, is a part-time pharmacist at CVS and a consultant for the Agency for Community Treatment Services. She served on the Tampa City Council from 1999 to 2006 and on the Hillsborough County Commission from 2006 to 2010. Education: bachelor of science in pharmacy, University of Florida. Personal: single, no children. Net worth: $1.1 million.

Runoff election will decide Tampa's mayor's race, four City Council seats 03/21/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:35am]
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