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Barbara Banno/Sam Henderson matchup is likely to be close

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Candidates in Gulfport races are spending the day making their rounds trying to gather up some last minute votes. Both Barbara Banno and Sam Henderson are bouncing back and forth between four polling places throughout the day until polls close at 7.

Both said they feel confident in a win, and both are happy with the way their campaigns played out.

“People like Gulfport the way it is. They appreciate the changes that have been made,” said Henderson, the incumbent Mayor.

Banno, his challenger, said she expects the race to be close, but thinks she’ll come out on top.

“As long as all the voters come out, I think I’m going to win this,” Banno said.

Banno has outraised Henderson by about double. Banno brought in about $22,000 compared to Henderson, who raised just $11,000.

“My goal was $10,000, and we hit it and exceeded it by $1,000 and a week before our fundraising deadline told supporters not to give us any more money,” Henderson said.

The difference in spending means Banno has been able to buy more yard signs, more ads and more mailers. But Henderson isn’t worried about that.

“I don’t pay too much attention to the signage because last time I got outspent on signs and I won,” Henderson said.

One of the key issues in the Gulfport mayoral race has been the Clam Bayou sewage dump last August. Banno and her supporters have made their rounds in the city saying more needs to be done. City leaders need to force an agreement with St. Pete ensuring such a dump never happens again.

Banno has also called for increased environmental studies evaluation the impact the dump had on the city’s waterways.

But Henderson has fought back criticism arguing he’s been in consistent contact with St. Pete officials trying to work through the issue.

“There were some people initially sucked in by the sewage thing and the way it was pitched that it was my fault that happened, but I’m sticking to my guns on the fact that we’ve had really good collaboration with the City of St. Petersburg,” Henderson said.

He acknowledged progress has gone slower than he would have liked but said in his most recent meeting with St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, he returned a fourth draft of an agreement between the two cities that includes criteria Gulfport had made a priority in its ask.

That resolution will go before Gulfport City Council during its next meeting in April — the same meeting where Henderson will either be sworn in as mayor for another term, or the torch passed to Banno.

Regardless of the way the election turns out, both candidates say they are proud of their hard-fought campaigns.

“If it doesn’t go my way, I don’t stop,” Banno said, adding that she will continue advocating for more open government and easier access to officials.

Both candidates made calls to local news agencies. Henderson claimed Bay News 9 and News Channel 10 aired reports Tuesday morning informing voters that only Republicans and Democrats can vote.

While that applies to the Presidential Preference Primary, 11 municipalities, including Gulfport, have races on the ballot. Voters in those locations can vote regardless of party affiliation.

Banno and Henderson will gather with campaign supporters just a couple of blocks away from one another. Henderson will be at Pia’s Trattoria at about 7:30 p.m. Banno expected to join her supporters at O’Maddy’s around 7:15 p.m.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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