After an increasingly contentious runoff election, Democrat Guido Maniscalco narrowly defeated Republican Jackie Toledo Tuesday to represent the formerly nonpartisan District 6 on the Tampa City Council.
Maniscalco, a 30-year-old West Tampa jeweler, took a late lead over Toledo, a civil engineer at CPH Engineers in Tampa, by less than two percentage points — 51 to 49 percent. Just 142 votes separated the two.
With all 29 precincts reporting, 7,172 ballots were cast, a turnout of 14 percent. According to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections website, there are 51,964 registered voters in the citywide district.
On March 3, none of the three candidates — Toledo, Maniscalco and Tommy Castellano – received a majority of the vote in the general election, prompting Tuesday’s runoff.
Many observers decried the “partisan tone” of the race, pointing to attack ads coming from third-party groups, particularly one from a group called Moving Tampa Forward, which claimed Maniscalco was “cited for multiple tax liens totaling nearly $40,000.”
At his election night victory party in West Tampa, Maniscalco says he believes the negative mailers made the difference.
I think the negativity backfired,” he said. “And that’s what we were looking at. If we wiin this race it’s because of the mailers. People got turned off . And there it is! We came back from a deficit of 17 points. 29 percent to 46 percent and now we squeak to victory.”
Although Toledo insisted her campaign had nothing to do with the mailer in question, her campaign still weathered the brunt of criticism. In a municipal campaign, negative ads and partisanship – something more fitting in statewide and national races – may have contributed to the low turnout in the District 6 race.
Speaking after discovering she had narrowly lost, Toledo tried to figure out what went wrong from her primary lead of 17 points over Maniscalco. She said she still didn’t know who sent those mailers out on her behalf, but she said they didn’t help her cause at all.
I didn’t know anything about it, and I still don’t know anything about it.” She said she was sure that information will ultimately come out. “It certainly didn’t help me. It hurt me. So whoever was behind it, you know? We’ll find out.”
Toledo added that it was possible that she would run for office again, but she said that her first plans were to take a much needed vacation.
Meanwhile, Maniscalco will be sworn in next week. His first meeting on the City Council takes place a week from Thursday.