TAMPA — Incumbent Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob “Coach” Henriquez grabbed an early lead in Tuesday night’s race for that office and held it: With nearly all precincts reporting around 9 p.m., he claimed 56 percent of the vote, as well as early votes and some mail-in ballots, according to unofficial results.
Henriquez’s opponent, D.C. Goutoufas, trailed with about 43 percent of the vote, those results showed.
“I’m humbled, as I always am," Henriquez said Tuesday night, as the results began to solidify in his favor. "I look at these races every four years as a job interview, and the voters of Hillsborough County have hired me for another four years to continue the fine work our office has been able to do over the past two terms.”
The race was a battle of old Tampa, as both men’s families have lived in the city for at least four generations. Henriquez, 56, the incumbent Democrat, sought his third term as property appraiser. Before that, he worked in a variety of public roles, including state representative from 1998 to 2006.
Goutoufas, a 52-year-old Republican, ran twice for City Council in the 1990s but has not held public office. He owns a cigar shop and a lawn care business and has worked as a downtown branch manager for Bank of America.
Henriquez has dominated in fundraising, amassing nearly $120,000 to Goutoufas’s $42,000.
Henriquez has said his top priorities include helping taxpayers recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout — he’s formed a coronavirus fact-finding group he hopes will help him push property tax relief — and continuing to modernize the office. Goutoufas has said he’ll push for a property tax freeze or rebate program as a measure of coronavirus relief. He has argued that the office’s website needs to be more user-friendly.
The race got heated in October, when Goutoufas accused Henriquez of giving an appraiser’s office employee an unfair break on a home assessment. Henriquez called the charge baseless, saying that the exemption in question, related to sinkhole activity, existed before he took office.
Goutoufas also criticized Henriquez for not giving exemptions to businesses leasing property from Port Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Henriquez said he’s following the law, as they’d only be eligible for tax breaks if they were doing essential government work. The Aviation Authority and a port leasee are in ongoing litigation with the property appraiser’s office.
On Tuesday night, Henriquez said he was ready to get back to work evaluating the effects of the pandemic on property values. He credited his campaign team and volunteers for what was starting to look like a victory, and he said he believed he’d been helped by people who reached across the aisle to vote for him.
“Being fair and equitable is not a partisan issue,” he said.
The property appraiser, elected by countywide vote, values property annually and administers tax exemptions. The four-year term for this office pays $170,011 annually.
Tampa Bay Times elections coverage
FLORIDA’S ELECTION NIGHT — AND BEYOND: Here’s what you need to know.
DECLARING WINNERS: How the Associated Press makes election calls, a Q&A
WHAT TO WATCH: What’s on TV for election night, from news to comedian commentators
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the elections in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription. Or click here to make a donation to the Tampa Bay Times Journalism Fund.