TAMPA — No one has spent more money than David Straz to win public office in Tampa Bay. And if polling is accurate in the Tampa mayor’s race, no one is likely to get less bang for the buck.
Recent surveys show retired Tampa police chief Jane Castor with a prohibitive lead over the retired banker and philanthropist. Castor, 59, has most of Tampa’s establishment backing her.
Straz, 76, is part of that establishment. But experts think he will need a big turnout in minority neighborhoods to have any hope of winning.
Here are five things worth knowing about today’s runoff election:
1. Straz has a serious climb to find a path to victory. In the March primary, Castor got the most votes in all but three of the city’s 103 precincts. Straz won two precincts in East Tampa. The other precinct went to Harry Cohen, a city councilman who didn’t make the runoff.
2. Early voting indicates a heavier turnout than in the primary, but it’s still pretty light. As of Monday afternoon, 37,284 ballots had been cast. That’s 16.2 percent of the registered voters in Tampa. In 2011, the last mayor’s race with an open seat, overall turnout was 22.4 percent.
3. The lack of voter interest isn’t due to lack of spending. Campaign filings through April 18 show Straz has spent about $5.1 million on the race, almost all of it his own money. Castor has raised more than $2 million. The total amount being spent is a record for a local election.
4. If elected, Castor would be the first openly gay mayor in the Tampa Bay area.
5. The vast majority of “political insiders’’ asked to predict the race’s outcome picked Castor. Only six of the 168 political experts queried anonymously by the Times think Straz will be Tampa’s next mayor.
READ MORE: Tampa Mayor’s Race 2019: A Complete Guide