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William March: Could a late arrival in Tampa mayor’s race upset the apple cart?

Speculation centers on businessman Mike Griffin or former state Rep. Ed Narain possibly entering the race for Tampa mayor.
Speculation centers on businessman and former Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mike Griffin (left) and former state Rep. Ed Narain (right) making a late entry into the Tampa mayor's race. (Times files)

Remember 2003, when Pam Iorio jumped into what looked like a settled field of candidates for Tampa mayor and upset the apple cart?

Lots of people do, and some think it could happen again.

Speculation about who could play the disruptor centers on businessman and former Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mike Griffin and former state Rep. Ed Narain.

Griffin previously thought about a mayor's race but put it off to finish his chamber term and a stint on the port board, plus other civic projects.

They're winding down now.

"I still believe the mayoral field isn't set yet," he said last week. "A lot of people are analyzing city precincts to understand where the city voters are and where they could be next spring."

Griffin's advantage would be business support.

His disadvantage could be that he's a Republican — though not with a highly partisan reputation — in the heavily Democratic city. Hence his interest in analyzing Nov. 6 results.

"I don't think the city wants partisan politics," he said.

Narain, whose popularity in the black community makes him a subject of speculation for almost any office that comes open, isn't commenting on his political future, but insiders say not to count him out.

Could either play Iorio in 2019?

"Few and rare people have the gravitas that Pam Iorio had," said political insider Todd Pressman, speaking of Iorio's jump into the 2003 race. But he added, "It's 2019 politics with a volatile electorate, and anything and everything can happen."

The large field, with half a dozen well-known candidates, means anyone with a solid core of support, like Griffin's business backing or Narain's support in the black community, could have a shot at making the runoff.

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