TAMPA — Charles "Charlie" Perkins is banking on support in the southern half of City Council District 7 to carry him to victory after spending years campaigning in North Tampa neighborhoods.
But his opponent, Lisa Montelione, is running a much different kind of race. She believes that whoever is elected to the seat Tuesday must meet the needs of the entire district, which includes New Tampa.
Residents living in various District 7 neighborhoods have more similarities than differences, she said.
"We all have the same problems, it just takes different shades," she said.
Perkins said he is campaigning somewhat in New Tampa, and has heard their concerns.
The expansion of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard will address New Tampa's traffic woes, and he has pledged to oppose the New Tampa Boulevard bridge project that West Meadows residents have fought.
But Perkins also has campaigned on promises to cater to North Tampa neighborhoods, which he says have been ignored for too long.
"My objective is to take care of neighborhoods that have been waiting on the list for 50, 60 years for simple services," Perkins said.
Those aging neighborhoods need new roads and sidewalks, he said, and residents are worried about crime.
The New Tampa vs. North Tampa narrative is just a fact of the race, Perkins said, and he isn't concerned that choosing sides may cost him the election.
"I guess it will be whatever God says it will be," he said.
Montelione disagrees that picking a side is even necessary. For example, foreclosures have negatively affected all neighborhoods, she said.
Montelione describes herself as a fiscal conservative who believes the city shouldn't shrug off its social responsibilities. While money is tight and cuts will have to be made, it shouldn't be done to the detriment of parks, recreation and elder care programs, she said.
"You have to balance the fiscal responsibility of the budget without sacrificing the services to the citizens."
The two have also taken very different approaches when it comes to campaigning. Montelione's is more traditional.
She attends every neighborhood association meeting and voter forum she can pack into her calendar. Along the way, she has picked up endorsements and raised $32,000 through late February, about five times as much as Perkins.
One morning last week, Montelione waved signs at the corner of Busch Boulevard and North Boulevard with firefighters who are backing her.
She has also made about 100 phone calls a day to voters in District 7, especially those in New Tampa.
On the other hand, Perkins has shunned public forums. His endorsement list consists mostly of people he met through the years while serving on Crime Watch groups.
He has walked door to door in the district, talking to residents and writing down their concerns and complaints in a notebook.
The effort paid off during the March 1 election. Perkins won every precinct south of Fowler Avenue, including the one where Montelione and her neighbors in Terrace Park vote.
Montelione either carried or tied incumbent Joseph Caetano in every precinct north of Fowler Avenue.
She sometimes feels frustrated that Perkins doesn't show up to public meetings to discuss his experience and answer questions about his platform. The only time they cross paths is when she sees him canvassing in her neighborhood.
But Perkins doesn't believe he needs to attend those public events to get his message across.
"Over here, it's a personal thing," he said. "It does make a difference if you personally talk with somebody and show them respect. They appreciate that."
Tia Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3405.