As Mayor Bob Buckhorn cruises to easy re-election victory, facing only a write-in candidate, one Tampa municipal race has brought at least a modicum of drama, despite lower than expected turnout numbers.
In the Tampa City Council District 6 contest — a guaranteed new face on the board — civil engineer Jackie Toledo will face jeweler Guido Maniscalco in a March 24 runoff. District 6 represents West Tampa and some of South Tampa.
Toledo led in the three-way race with 46 percent, but it was not enough to hold off a runoff election. Maniscalco took slightly more than 29 percent. Tommy Castellano, a West Tampa businessperson, received under 25 percent.
Despite trouncing Maniscalco and Castellano, the mood at Toledo’s party was decidedly somber. Supporters seemed disappointed she could not break the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
“I was just ready to move on,” said Toledo’s husband Jose, a Tampa attorney.
Undaunted, Toledo began her runoff campaign with a fundraising call.
“We’re going to go back out there. Join me in the second part of this journey,” she told supporters. “If you can donate starting tomorrow, of course we’re going to have to reload.”
After his loss, Castellano made an appearance at the Maniscalco campaign party, to officially give his endorsement. The move helped boost confidence in supporters that they will have a decent chance at beating Toledo in three weeks.
Estimates have voter turnout on Election Day hovering just over 12 percent, Tampa’s lowest since the early 1970s.
As of the close of polls Tuesday, nearly 7,200 voters went to the polls in person. Mail-in ballots were counted at 15,627; early voting clocked in at 2,455.
Although the District 6 race was officially nonpartisan, it quickly fell along party lines: Maniscalco is a Democrat; Toledo is a Republican. Castellano is a registered independent.
This partisan divide led to a number of appearances by outside political committees, with one supporting Toledo that resulted in charges of improper campaigning.
Accusations included Toledo’s main campaign photo, where she is in front of the official City of Tampa seal. As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, the picture appears to be a composite, with Toledo superimposed over Buckhorn’s official city portrait. She took the image down soon after receiving a letter from the city attorney.
Another complaint was lodged over a video of Toledo taken at an Interstate 275 construction site. The issue was that she did not receive permission of the Florida Department of Transportation beforehand, as well as requisite insurance and permits. Toledo received a letter of reprimand from the FDOT, which told her “unauthorized activity is prohibited” and asked her to follow the rules more carefully in the future.
One matter was attack mailers from a group called Moving Tampa Forward, which has a mailing address of a student apartment at Hillsborough Community College. Records show somebody named Auston Cianflone as the founder of Moving Tampa Forward.
The Times noted that although HCC does not have a registered student named Auston Cianflone, there is one named Auston Molina. And through Facebook, Molina, a Tampa resident, links to two people named Cianflone, as well as a photo gallery showing Molina at a party for Anthony Pedicini, a Toledo campaign consultant. Pedicini insisted he has no connection to Molina, nor Moving Tampa Forward.
Of course, third party mischief was not limited to Toledo’s campaign. Yesterday, on the eve of Tuesday’s election, the Florida Democratic Party dropped a mailer attacking Toledo, the second in the District 6 race.
Janelle Irwin contributed to this report.