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Coronavirus posed threat for Tampa Bay candidates during 2020 campaign

At least two were exposed to the virus.

It’s becoming clear that campaigning in the 2020 election posed a threat to candidates, and not just those hit by the White House and Trump campaign outbreaks.

At least two local candidates, newly reelected state Rep. Jackie Toledo and newly elected Tax Collector Nancy Millan, also were exposed to the coronavirus, and Millan confirmed this week she’s had what she described as a mild illness.

Toledo didn’t respond to questions about whether she has tested positive for the virus or been ill, but she missed the organizational session of the Legislature on Tuesday in Tallahassee because of exposure.

Millan didn’t say how she was exposed.

Other candidates say they were aware of the risks of campaigning and were worried despite taking precautions that sharply altered normal campaign activity.

Most cut down or eliminated door-to-door canvassing, in-person candidate forums and rallies, and even victory night parties — although more Democrats than Republicans did so.

“I knew there was some risk even though we took as many precautions as we could take, but I thought what we were doing was important,” and therefore accepted some risk, said Julie Jenkins, who lost to Toledo.

She said some of her volunteers got COVID-19 tests because of possible exposure, but no illnesses, and that one friend of hers running for office in South Carolina got infected.

“Maybe I was just lucky,” she said.

Newly elected County Commissioner Harry Cohen said he sought to eliminate risk because of his responsibilities dealing with his elderly parents.

“Everyone had to make their own judgment as to how much risk was acceptable,” he said.

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