1. Florida Politics

Guido Maniscalco narrowly defeats Jackie Toledo in Tampa City Council runoff

TAMPA — Outspent nearly 3-to-1, West Tampa jeweler Guido Maniscalco on Tuesday squeaked out a 151-vote victory over civil engineer Jackie Toledo in one of Tampa's most sharply contested City Council races in memory.

With all votes counted, unofficial results showed Maniscalco with a lead of a little more than 2 percent, 3,731 to 3,580. Turnout was about 14 percent.

After trailing Toledo by 17 points in the March 3 municipal election, Maniscalco won big in Seminole Heights, Wellswood, West Tampa, Riverside Heights and his home neighborhood of MacFarlane Park.

"We won this race today on election day," Maniscalco, 30, said during his victory party at Oliva Tobacco Co. in West Tampa. "I think this final weekend of making phone calls and robocalls and walking neighborhoods and encouraging people to take anybody, take your grandmother, bring a friend, tell your neighbors. … It all added up."

Toledo, 38, carried South Tampa precincts like her home neighborhood of Beach Park and Culbreath Heights and Palma Ceia West — neighborhoods that tend to turn out in large numbers and often prove decisive in District 6.

Toledo, who raised more than $161,000 to Maniscalco's $56,000 and had an organization that put more signs and campaign workers at several key polling places Tuesday, said a key difference in the race was news coverage.

"You guys were really hard and against me," Toledo, who launched her campaign almost exactly one year ago, said during her campaign party at Fodder & Shine restaurant in Seminole Heights.

During the campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported that her campaign was using an image that photography experts said consisted of her photo superimposed on Mayor Bob Buckhorn's official portrait, that she used video shot without permission on a Florida Department of Transportation construction site in a campaign commercial, and that a political action committee that attacked her opponents appeared to have connections to her campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini. Pedicini and Toledo said the campaign had nothing to do with the PAC.

"It was a disservice to Tampa," her husband, Jose Toledo, said of the coverage.

"Yeah, I really believe that," said Jackie Toledo, who remained upbeat despite the loss.

"I'm not a negative person," she said. "I believe that rejection is a protection from God, and God has a plan for me, and this is part of his plan. And you know what? There is something bigger and better out there for me. I will continue to serve Tampa."

While City Council races are officially nonpartisan, voters leaving the polls Tuesday often said they voted based on the fact that Toledo is a Republican or that Maniscalco is a Democrat.

"I voted for Maniscalco, and why? He's local, and he's a Democrat," retired Greyhound bus driver Ray Toledo — no relation to the candidate — said outside David Barksdale Senior Center at MacFarlane Park.

Maniscalco will represent District 6, described as a "vegetable soup" of diverse neighborhoods, ranging from the affluent South Tampa neighborhoods near West Shore to working-class West Tampa to parts of Seminole Heights. He will be sworn in April 1 to a four-year term that pays $42,078 annually.

Maniscalco said he plans to talk with neighborhood leaders about their needs and try to make a list of roads that need repairs as the city compiles the 2016 budget.

"I'm going to go with the worst first," he said.