Friday, February 23, 2018
Politics

Special election for Tampa City Council heating up

Two new candidates and placement on the Nov. 8 general election ballot are further complicating the special election for a Tampa City Council seat to replace Lisa Montelione in District 7.

The presidential election ballot means unprecedented high turnout for the down-ballot city council race.

It's a non-partisan election and candidates don't run by parties, but some political experts say the high turnout could help the candidates who are registered Democrats and the two who are black.

But it's also unlikely any candidate will get 50 percent, which means a runoff Dec. 6 and turnout likely to be lower than usual for a city election. That could help any non-Democrat who makes it into the runoff.

New Tampa resident Avis Harrison and Jim Davison, a physician and previous GOP candidate for county commissioner, are new to the race, joining newspaper editor Gene Siudut, retired Tampa police officer Orlando Gudes, health care data analyst Cyril Spiro and lawyer Luis Viera.

Viera has the backing of big-name Democrats; Siudut's boss, La Gaceta publisher and Democratic operative and insider Patrick Manteiga is pushing his campaign.

Davison said he believes partisan politics is influencing the race, citing Viera's backing.

"I think it would be nice to have a Republican on the City Council for a change," he said.

One interesting wrinkle: Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, who once held the seat, has contributed through his political committee to Avis Harrison — no relation — and said he hasn't made any endorsement but is helping and encouraging her.

Avis Harrison is a no-party registrant, but GOP operative Anthony Pedicini is working with her, partly because of his relationship with Shawn Harrison.

Pedicini noted that more than a third of the Democrats in District 7 are black, which could help her or Gudes in the initial vote.

Democrats have roughly a 3-2 voter registration advantage in the district, but among likely voters, their advantage declines to 14,681, with 9,803 Republicans and 7,789 others, he said.

More or fewer candidates are still possible; qualifying is Sept. 5-9.

Mayor's Philly speech revives governor talk

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's speech to the Florida delegation at the Democratic convention is reviving talk of his possible run for governor in 2018.

Buckhorn has long been considered a 2018 possibility, and has said he's looking at it. But the talk has declined because of his slow fundraising compared to Democrats Gwen Graham and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, and Republican Adam Putnam.

Buckhorn hit Florida themes and sounded like a 2018 candidate in his DNC speech:

"We know what it's like to elect a tea party millionaire … to give back $3 billion in rail money that could have provided thousands of jobs … to have a government that doesn't know the difference between toxic green algae and guacamole … to turn back hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid money that would have served thousands of us … We're going to win in 2016, and then we're coming back in 2018, and we're taking our state back."

The speech "is reviving that talk 100 percent," Tampa Democrat Justin Day said from the convention. "People were still talking about it Thursday morning. His name had kind of stopped being mentioned, but I think after this you're going to see more Democrats wanting him to step up and do it."

Endorsement watch

To judge by influential backers and fundraising, Jackie Toledo may be the underdog to Rebecca Smith in the District 60 House race, replacing Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, but Toledo nabbed the potential endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

The Florida Sentinel Bulletin, a bi-weekly serving Tampa's black community, has endorsed Sean Shaw in the race for heavily black state House District 61, over Dianne Hart and Walter Lee Smith. The paper also backed Stanley Gray in the District 7 School Board race. The Sentinel Bulletin is influential in the black community, political consultant Todd Pressman said.

Viera got the endorsement of the city firefighters' union.

"It's important because they're viewed as a truly sacrificing group, and they put boots on the ground," said consultant Barry Edwards.

William March can be reached at [email protected]

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