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Mary Mulhern sweeps aside two challengers for Tampa City Council seat

Holding a likeness of her that she jokingly calls her “evil twin,” Mary Mulhern joins other City Council candidates for some last-minute campaigning Tuesday at Palma Ceia United Methodist.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Holding a likeness of her that she jokingly calls her “evil twin,” Mary Mulhern joins other City Council candidates for some last-minute campaigning Tuesday at Palma Ceia United Methodist.

TAMPA — Mary Mulhern won a second term on the City Council, beating two challengers Tuesday for the citywide seat.

Both opponents in the District 2 race, Scott Strepina and Susan Long, had never run for office before.

Mulhern, 52, said she worked hard throughout the campaign to connect with voters throughout Tampa.

"I think because of the hard work I've done and my emphasis on all the neighborhoods and my willingness to ask questions and solve problems," the race was won, she said.

Mulhern had considered running for mayor, the Legislature or County Commission but ultimately decided to pursue another council term instead.

She is an artist by trade but said she devotes full-time attention to the City Council.

She serves as chairwoman of the finance committee and created the Citizen Budget Advisory Committee last year to solicit ideas. Another term will allow her to serve as a leader, she said.

"I'll just continue to make sure that I get all the information that I need and make those tough decisions and to stand up for doing the right thing," she said.

Strepina, 32, of Palma Ceia filed to run for the seat a year ago when Mulhern was undecided.

He touted his experience as an executive at Coca-Cola and his efforts to learn more about the city's strengths and weaknesses through a listening tour.

Longtime neighborhood activist Susan Long was the final candidate to join this race, submitting her paperwork just before the filing period closed.

She said her opponents had more money and more time to connect with voters, so she was happy with the support she obtained in just six weeks.

Long's campaign centered on her opposition to panhandling and criticism of the council, which had failed to pass a ban.

Mulhern initially was among the council members who resisted a panhandling ban. However, as the issue moved to the forefront of public discussion and became a hot topic on the campaign trail, she supported efforts to move ahead.

She supported a proposal to ban panhandling on major roadways, but the idea didn't receive a majority vote.

The new City Council will have to address the issue in coming months, Mulhern said, but may wait for the Hillsborough County Commission to act first.

"This is something that is going to be coming up and I don't know" what the council will decide, she said. "We're waiting to see what the county is going to do."

Long, the former president of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association and a member of the city's Code Enforcement Board/Public Nuisance Abatement Board, said she will continue to push for a total panhandling ban.

"I'll be at City Council on Thursday saying exactly that."

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

Mary Mulhern sweeps aside two challengers for Tampa City Council seat 03/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 7:50am]
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