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It’s not the party, it’s the after party: Gulfport municipal election

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

All eyes will be on Florida and Ohio Tuesday as voters flock to the polls to make their choice for president in the Presidential Preference Primary. Locally, though, a lot of eyes will be trained on Gulfport where voters will decide whether or not to replace two incumbents.

Mayor Sam Henderson and Ward 1 City Councilman Dan Liedtke are fighting to keep their seats in City Hall against formidable challengers. Both incumbents have been grossly outraised and are being challenged by outsiders who call on voters to reject the status quo.

The four candidates, including mayoral candidate Barbara Banno and Liedtke’s opponent, April Thanos, will all be celebrating at various Gulfport hotspots.

Henderson will be hosting a “post-election” celebration at Pia’s Trattoria on Beach Boulevard in the city’s downtown district. Henderson stopped short of calling it a victory party and even wrote on his Facebook event page that, “win or lose, the party happens.”

His campaign is providing some food and drinks as well as live entertainment outside on the restaurant’s patio. Supporters can purchase additional items from the regular menu.

“I want to spend this evening with the people who made the campaign possible and stood strong by my side. The people who have kept the faith that I will continue to stand strong for them,” Henderson wrote on Facebook.

His challenger, Banno, will be at O’Maddy’s on Gulfport’s waterfront across from the Pier.

Liedtke is hosting a different kind of election night celebration. Beginning at 6 p.m. Liedtke will be on Gulfport Beach’s volleyball court for an evening of pickup games. He plans to be there until 9 p.m. Polls close at 7.

Thanos is hosting her election night watch party at Havana Café on Gulfport Boulevard.

Based on RSVPs on Facebook, Henderson is likely to have the biggest election night turnout. Of the more than 200 people invited, 39 have indicated they will attend. Banno’s not far behind. Thirty-seven people have indicated they plan to attend her election night party. Thanos has 11 individuals who say they are attending her party. Liedtke doesn’t have any RSVPs on Facebook, but his page has not been shared with anyone.

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 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

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