Tom Lee vs. Pam Iorio for county mayor — now that would be a fun match

Tom Lee vs. Pam Iorio.

Wow.

Somebody call the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization because only the octagon would be fitting for this political mixed martial arts battle royal for county mayor.

County mayor? Yes, as I speculate about what voters may see on the ballot a year from now, a county mayor proposal that could result in Lee and Iorio facing off in 2012 remains a distinct possibility.

Such a political showdown may never come to fruition. County mayor proponents have to get the proposal on the ballot, voters must approve the initiative, and then Lee and Iorio would have to throw their hats in the ring.

But hey, that's why they call this a forecast. Why let supposition interfere with our dream matchup?

A clash between Iorio, the current Tampa mayor, and Lee, the former state senator, might not fill up the sports bars on a Saturday night, but it would offer a ton of intrigue.

Lee could bank on the goodwill he generated as a state senator and his popularity in East Hillsborough as a Brandon High graduate. His Republican status would garner support there, and he's moderate enough to pick up some votes in South Tampa.

Iorio, a Democrat, would marshal her forces in the city and count on an approval rating that has hovered above 80 percent during her two-term tenure as mayor, which ends in March 2011. Her experience as a former supervisor of elections and county commissioner would help her pick up momentum in the county.

First things first, however. The county mayor initiative has to reach the ballot. Mary Ann Stiles, a lawyer-lobbyist who has worked to pass the amendment since 2005, reportedly is gathering petitions again after a court challenge invalidated the original petitions that sought to place the amendment on the 2008 ballot.

Interestingly, a companion amendment giving the county mayor veto power did reach the 2008 ballot and passed — possibly indicating that the actual county mayor initiative would enjoy similar approval.

Approval for the transportation/light rail initiative, another expected proposal on the 2010 ballot, remains as uncertain. The County Commission expects to add the initiative, which calls for a 1-cent sales tax increase, to the ballot.

Some polls indicate that residents favor the transportation fee because it not only brings the city a rail line but enhances bus transportation and funds road improvements in outlying areas of the county without decreasing commitments made by developers.

Still, a tax increase in a difficult economy will be tough for some to swallow, even if rail promises to boost economic development. Iorio remains encouraged.

"I get the same reaction once people are presented with the facts," Iorio said. "Once they see the plan, they understand how important it is.

"The real question is what do you want the community to be like in 20 or 30 years."

As far as the races go, Sandy Murman may prove to be a pivotal figure. The former state representative for District 56 may try to return to that spot in a campaign against incumbent Rachel Burgin. It would be an interesting race with Murman's name recognition tilting against Burgin's support from Tallahassee.

Or, Murman could enter the County Commission race for District 1, which includes South Tampa neighborhoods. Rose Ferlita holds the seat but is expected to forgo re-election to make a run for Tampa mayor. That would leave Murman, if she enters, competing against at least three candidates who already have filed to run: Tampa City Council member and Democrat John Dingfelder and Republicans Anne Madden and Trey Rustmann.

Other races will develop their own story lines over the next 12 months, but for now, we have more than enough to keep us interested.

That's all I'm saying.

Tom Lee vs. Pam Iorio for county mayor — now that would be a fun match 11/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:46pm]

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