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Endorsements, cross-overs in Singer-vs.-Toledo race for House District 60

The race between Democrat David Singer and Republican Jackie Toledo for the open seat in Florida House District 60 is producing some endorsements that come as no surprise, but also a couple of alliances you might not expect.

Specifically: he picked up one of her past supporters. Meanwhile, she turned a one-time political enemy into a volunteer for her campaign.

This week, Singer, a lawyer and first-time candidate, announced that all seven members of the Tampa City Council had endorsed him. (The endorsements were made individually, not collectively by the council acting in its official capacity, but Singer released the whole batch all at once.)

"Electing David Singer gives our city and our community a real partner in Tallahassee," someone who will ensure "that Tampa's interests are effectively represented with a clear, intelligent and thoughtful voice," council member Harry Cohen said in a statement released with the endorsement.

On one level, no duh. The Nov. 8 election is a partisan contest. Singer is a Democrat. So are all seven council members.

But one of the endorsements came from council member Lisa Montelione, who last year supported Toledo's bid in the non-partisan race for City Council. (Toledo lost a close vote after a hard-fought runoff with Guido Maniscalco.)

This time, Montelione, who is leaving her council seat to run as the Democratic candidate in House District 63, has lined up with Singer and against Toledo.

So why support Toledo last year but not this year?

"Two totally different circumstances," Montelione said Friday.

"I thought (Toledo) would have been a great addition with her skill set to the City Council," Montelione said. Those skills, she said, in particular Toledo's experience as a transportation engineer, would have served her well had she been appointed as a city representative to the Metropolitan Planning Organization or the Public Transportation Commission.

In contrast, Montelione said, "legislators are pure policy makers, and my own values and my Democratic principles and David's align. Not so with Jackie."

For the record, Montelione said Maniscalco, who sits right next to her on the council, has done a fine job representing fellow millennials and neighborhoods like Seminole Heights with his opposition to the Tampa Bay Express interstate expansion.

But there's no denying that her support for a Republican, even in an officially non-partisan race, caused "a tremendous amount of pushback" from Hillsborough Democratic Party insiders, Montelione said. "Some have still not gotten over it."

Still, she hopes that, if anything, both endorsements show that even in a hyper-partisan environment, "I don't see everything with blinders on," and that she's willing to work across party lines to get things done.

Meanwhile, Toledo has picked up support from one of her most outspoken opponents during her race against Maniscalco.

The last time we saw West Tampa restaurateur Joseph Procopio, he was filing an elections complaint against Toledo, contending she was improperly using the city of Tampa official seal in her campaign materials.

The complaint went nowhere, and now Procopio is an enthusiastic supporter of Toledo.

After last year's City Council's race, Procopio said he came to conclude that Toledo, then running her first race, had little to nothing to do with the hardball attacks on Maniscalco. Though the organizers behind a couple of controversial mailers were never disclosed, Procopio said he believes they were the work of Toledo's political consultant in the council race, Anthony Pedicini, who has denied having anything to do with them.

"Jackie was really, really, really wet behind the ears and didn't know what was going on," Procopio said. After the election, he called her, and they met. "She accepted my apology, and I started helping her."

This campaign, he said, has been different, with a positive tone, a focus on issues that resonate with voters and Toledo's team walking neighborhoods two and three times before the primary, where she won a narrow victory over the better-funded and highly endorsed Rebecca Smith.

"She works harder than anybody I've ever met," he said, and as an engineer she's data-driven, bringing a strong analytical approach to decision-making. "I think she'll do a really good job."

Still, Procopio says, "a lot of people are surprised seeing me with Jackie."