The field is set for Tampa's March city elections

As the qualifying period ended Friday, Tampa mayoral candidate Mike Suarez touted endorsements from unions representing the city's firefighters and municipal employees.
Tampa mayoral candidate Mike Suarez was endorsed by unions representing the city’s firefighters and municipal workers Friday.
Tampa mayoral candidate Mike Suarez was endorsed by unions representing the city’s firefighters and municipal workers Friday.
Published January 18
Updated January 19

TAMPA — Minutes after the field for Tampa’s March 5 election became official Friday, City Council member Mike Suarez stood outside the Hillsborough County government center to accept the endorsement of the city’s firefighter and municipal workers unions.

“The mayor is not a top-down position. Workers work with you, not for you,” Suarez said. “It’s not an adversarial relationship.”

The city’s police union has yet to endorse a candidate. All three unions will be renegotiating their bargaining agreements within months of the next mayor taking office on May 1.

Suarez was one of seven candidates to qualify for the mayor’s race. Former police chief Jane Castor, former county commissioner Ed Turanchik, retired banker and philanthropist David Straz, City Council member Harry Cohen, small businessman Topher Morrison and retired judge Dick Greco Jr. round out the field in a campaign that has already had seven forums, including a televised debate.

Two candidates who had filed paperwork didn’t end up qualifying: LaVaughn King and Michael Hazard. King participated in several debates, while Hazard, an ex-felon who recently had his voting rights restored with Amendment 4, never appeared at a forum. Their exit from the race leaves a field without a black candidate.

All seven council seats are also up for reelection and every race will be competitive.

In District 6, council member Guido Maniscalco drew an opponent Friday — small businesswoman and first-time candidate Wendy Pepe.

For months, council member Charlie Miranda toyed with the idea of running against Maniscalco in the district covering neighborhoods in West Tampa and Seminole Heights. But Miranda will seek reelection for his citywide seat in District 2.

He will be opposed by John Godwin, a national security and technical innovation consultant, and Joe Robinson,a longtime community activist and engineering consultant.

With term-limited council members Yolie Capin and Frank Reddick leaving office in May, their seats have drawn crowded fields.

In District 3, a citywide seat being vacated by Capin, former city council member John Dingfelder, South Seminole Heights Civic Association president Stephen Lytle and energy market manager and community activist Nicholas Glover and Realtor Vibha Shevade all qualified.

In District 5, Reddick’s departure has created another crowded field for the district covering downtown and East Tampa. Political activist Ella Coffee, funeral home operator Jeffrey Rhodes and retired Tampa police officer Orlando Gudes qualified, as did Ralph Smith, the founder of a computer skills non-profit, and Todd “TC” Cole, who manages his family businesses, which include real estate and hair care.

The field in South Tampa’s District 4, being vacated by Cohen, is Tucker Hall president Bill Carlson, Hillsborough Community College foundation fundraiser Lee Lowry and Sal Guagliardo Jr, who works for his family’s dairy business. Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who is term limited, has already endorsed Lowry.

Suarez’s citywide District 1 seat has five candidates. Joseph Citro, a civic activist making his fourth run for a council seat, Walter Smith II, a community activist, David Loos, a workplace consultant, Craig Newman, a chiropractor clinic owner who recently sold his business and Alan Clendenin, a retired air traffic controller and Democratic Party activist.

Council member Luis Viera will defend his District 7 New Tampa and north Tampa seat against Quinton F. Robinson, a community activist and former president of the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus.

Editor’s Note: Stephen Lytle is the president of the South Seminole Heights Civic Association. The original post incorrectly identified his title.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)893-8459. [email protected] .

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