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Mitch Perry Report for 3.24.15 — Election season ends in Tampa tonight

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The city of Tampa’s uneventful election season comes to a halt tonight. By 8 p.m. we should have a winner in the only City Council race that remains undecided — the District 6 battle between Guido Maniscalco and Jackie Toledo.

I hate the overuse of the term “Seinfeld” to describe something as being about nothing. So I’ll refrain from calling this a “Seinfeld election season,” but really, what have been the big issues in the city that have been discussed this campaign season?

Neighborhoods outside of Tampa need help, particularly with infrastructure. Permits for businesses still take too long, particularly for restaurants in Seminole Heights. Transportation? There’s been more discussion of course about utilizing the streetcar (which is already beginning to happen), but council members won’t be the ones deciding whether there will be a referendum for light-rail or other transit issues later this year. That will be their friends to the east along Kennedy Blvd., the Hillsborough County Commission.

Four years ago, the overwhelming issue that drowned out almost all other issues was regarding the the homeless, specifically panhandling. That issue was front and center in the city before the election season began in earnest in January of 2011, and it remained an issue for the council for months afterwards. In retrospect, it’s understandable, though at the time it seemed a little overblown. That’s because when a quality of life issue surfaces like that, it can dominate an election.

In my hometown of San Francisco, the homeless situation seemed to just explode in the late 1980s. In November of 1991, the mayoral election was between Democrat Art Agnos and Republican Frank Jordan, a former police chief in San Francisco. Stunningly, the liberal enclave actually went for the conservative former police chief, A) because Agnos was sort of a lousy politician, but also because B), the homeless problem was bad, and people needed a scapegoat.

So, with quality of life issues much better in Tampa in 2015 than 2011, it makes sense that there wouldn’t be that sense of urgency about conditions in the city.

Also, counting the mayor’s race, there were eight positions up for election in 2011, and six of them were open seats. This year, it’s just the opposite; there are only two of the eight positions where an incumbent was not on the ballot, and one of those was the District 2 City Council race, where a virtual incumbent in Charlie Miranda simply moved over to a new district to run, making him the prohibitive favorite over his two challengers.

The only council member leaving this week is Mary Mulhern, who flirted briefly with running in the South Tampa District 4 seat. However, that seat is currently held by the popular Harry Cohen, who politely but firmly told Mulheron, “thanks, but no thanks,” when she suggested that he run citywide so that she could run for another four-year term in his district.

So today it now comes down to those voters in West Tampa, Seminole Heights and South Tampa who realize that in fact there is an election today. (Slightly more than 5,000 have already voted early.)

Stay tuned to our site on what goes down there.

In other news….

That bill to repeal Florida’s ban on gay adoption has caused all types of blowback in the state House of Representatives. But according to an attorney with the ACLU, the most recent legislation passed by a committee last week in response is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Tampa Bay area Democrats had mostly a positive reaction to South Florida U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s announcement that he’s running for the U.S. Senate next year.

The Progressive Caucus with the Florida Democratic Party would prefer that Alan Grayson throw his hat in the ring against Murphy.

Yesterday marked the fifth year anniversary of Barack Obama’s signing of the Affordable Care Act. To mark the occasion, the National Republican Congressional Campaign targeted two Florida Democrats who it says are two of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country — the above-mentioned Patrick Murphy and Gwen Graham, though neither was in Congress in 2010, and thus couldn’t vote on the legislation.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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