Early Voting in Tampa

The Tampa Tribune's Ellen Gedalius has a good analysis this morning about Mayor Pam Iorio's decision to spend city money to provide early voting for the first in Tampa municipal elections.

The upshot is that early voting benefits the most organized and best funded candidates, a description that will certainly apply to Iorio's re-election campaign. In partisan races, that means advantage: Republicans. But this is a nonpartisan affair, and so the benefit goes to those who are ready, sooner than later, to deliver their message and have volunteers manning early polling sites.

The early polls will open Feb. 19 in six locations (five public libraries and the Supversor of Elections Office in downtown) until March 3. The election is March 6.

20061215_victory_rally1_640Iorio with Plant High School's QB Robert Marve and Head Coach Robert Weiner at a recent rally (source: Tampagov.net)

Yes, it will benefit the mayor, but it is a moot point for two reasons: She's not going to get any serious opposition (no way that Dick Greco runs) and it is the right thing to do in an attempt to raise voter turnout in Tampa elections beyond the 33 percent who cast ballots in 2003, the last time the mayor's office and the seven Tampa City Council seats were up for grabs.

Others who will benefit: Incumbent Gwen Miller, who faces three or four opponents in her re-election bid; Councilman Shawn Harrison, who has lots of money and organization for his first citywide bid; and District 4 (South Tampa) candidates John Dingfelder (the incumbent) and Julie Brown, both of whom should have more than $125,000 in campaign funds on hand to spend, in part, to influence early voters.

Speaking of Greco, the Times' John Hill had an excellent look the other day at how the former mayor is being wooed. There is no doubt that a group of people in Tampa — upset at Iorio for various reasons, from the museum debacle to the business-crippling logjam at her permitting department — are desperate to mount a real opposition to her 2007 coronation. They thought they had business leader John Sykes ready to go a few months ago, but he never materialized. Now, they're pumping up Greco, who is too smart to take the bait, I believe. He's as unhappy with Iorio as anybody else (just sit down for lunch at The Palm with him and you'll get an earful about how Iorio systematically took credit for initiatives and projects he started), but a Greco vs. Iorio race doesn't turn out well for Tampa's most charismatic politician, who carries bad baggage from a few failed projects under his watch (see: Centro Ybor, the Urban League's Centro Espanol de West Tampa).

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