TAMPA — On paper, former Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder might appear to have a clear edge over three competitors vying to replace term-limited City Council member Yolie Capin in the District 3 seat.
The political veteran is facing three first-time candidates in their 30s, and his campaign has raised nearly $116,000 ahead of the city's March 5 election — more than any of the 28 other candidates taking advantage of an election year where all seven of Tampa's City Council seats are on the ballot.
But even with Dingfelder's long list of endorsements and council experience, the three new faces have put up a fight for one of four citywide seats.
In a February poll of 429 Tampa voters, local polling firm St. Pete Polls reported that 33 percent supported Dingfelder's campaign, giving him a narrow lead. Still, 31 percent of voters said they were as yet undecided.
Energy services executive Nicholas Glover and corporate human relations manager Stephen Lytle, both 36, have impressed supporters with detailed and proactive plans to address problem areas such as affordable housing and transportation.
"I decided to run because I'm tired of watching us chip slowly away at our problems instead of doing the hard work that's required to get out in front on these issues before they're critical," Glover told the Tampa Bay Times. "I think we're seeing that voters are tired of it as well based on the result of the recent transportation and education referendums, both of which I proudly supported."
And while polling numbers show Realtor Vibha Shevade trailing her three male competitors, the 38-year-old has still found a groundswell of support as both a minority candidate — both of her parents immigrated from south Asia — and the only woman running for a citywide council seat.
Shevade has also stood apart from the largely unified pack on several key issues, including her stance that historic preservation issues should be careful to not infringe on owners' property rights and that the city council should be wary of supporting efforts to build a new Tampa Bay Ray's stadium in Ybor City.
"I would not take a proactive role in seeking to retain the Rays in the Tampa Bay area, because our priority should be to sustain our existing infrastructure before we start new projects," Shevade told the Tampa Bay Times.
All four candidates boast well-rounded resumes of civic engagement. Shevade, a University of South Florida graduate and mother of three, previously worked as both a software engineer and a speech therapist in Hillsborough County Public Schools. In 2018, Shevade was elected president of the Hillsborough County Indian Advisory Council, and she has gained support from civic groups such the Muslims for Democracy and Fairness Tampa chapter and the Tampa Facebook group "Surly Feminists for the Revolution."
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Lytle, another USF alum, previously served on the City of Tampa's Public Nuisance Abatement Board, is in his third year as chair of the Citizen's Budget Advisory Committee and has earned multiple awards for his work as president of the South Seminole Heights Civic Association.
"As the only city council candidate who currently serves as a neighborhood association president I have seen the unique challenges we have faced," Lytle said. "All candidates talk about neighborhoods, but I am ready to hold those who are elected with me accountable to taking action and getting results."
Lytle boasts endorsements from Tampa's state Rep. Jackie Toledo, Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, the Tampa Police Benevolent Association and a long list of area business owners.
Glover, a father of two, is the former chairman of entrepreneurship organization NLC Tampa Bay, has served on the board of local veterans advocacy group Tampa Crossroads, and is the former Commissioner of the City's Enterprise Zone Development Agency.
A Harvard Business School graduate, Glover has picked up backing from former state representative Sean Shaw and Tampa Bay Spark founder Tammy Charles.
Dingfelder, though, boasts a formidable roster of supporters. Hillsborough County Commissioners Mariella Smith, Pat Kemp and commission chair Les Miller have all backed Dingfelder, along with county property appraiser Bob Henriquez and public defender Julianne Holt, state representative Susan Valdes, former state representative Shawn Harrison, state Sen. Janet Cruz and former state chief financial officer Alex Sink.
Dingfelder also has support from former Tampa City Council members Gwen Miller, Mary Mulhern and Tom Scott, former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman and current Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
A father of three, Dingfelder is a former public middle school teacher, little league coach and president of the Davis Island Civic Association. He has remained active in local civic boards, including the Humane Society, HARTline, Metropolitan Planning Organization and Tampa General Hospital, as well as volunteer groups including Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity. He obtained his law degree from the University of Florida and has practiced law in the Tampa area for more than 30 years, previously serving as an assistant county attorney and assistant public defender.
Contact Anastasia Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.