Incumbent Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez defeated opponent Susan Long, a longtime Seminole Heights neighborhood activist, in Tuesday’s race for citywide District 1.
Final numbers give Suarez, a third-generation Tampa resident, the substantial victory with just under 62 percent. It will be his second four-year term on the council.
For many municipal elections, incumbency sets a high bar. In Long’s case, a clear victory over Suarez would have been particularly challenging.
“He is better known,” Long told Florida Politics’ Mitch Perry earlier in the day. “He’s been on City Council for four years. I can’t undo that.”
Long was speaking at a Seminole Heights voting location this afternoon.
Unsurprisingly, turnout was light this year. Early voting has been taking place since last Monday, and polls opened at 7 a.m. this morning. Only a handful of in-person ballots were cast.
Turnout would struggle to crack 12 percent, predicted Florida Politics reporter Janelle Irwin.
Others estimate that Tuesday’s election could have the lowest turnout since the early 1970s.
In the end, that was the case. Only 26,529 voters cast ballots on Election Day, just over 12 percent of the 211,158 registered Hillsborough residents.
In four years, Long could seek office once again, probably with better results. In 2019, the District 1 field will be open since term limits will keep Suarez from running again; by then, only two incumbents will be running.
“I’ll make that decision on some other date,” Long told Perry. “I might be six months under in 4 years, who knows?
Until then, Long will continue to speak up for Seminole Heights, as well as other diverse Tampa districts. As for bigger issues facing the city, she might have to wait until next time.
“There are things that we need for the city that don’t have anything to do with neighborhoods, per se….I can’t control anything, but I can speak for individual neighborhoods,” Long said. “And that’s what I’ve done.
“That’s what makes people like it here, and happy here, and that’s what makes me go out, and tell people to come to Tampa.”
Mitch Perry contributed to this report.