Pam Iorio for Senate? No-brainer

click to enlarge WINNERS? The mayor interviews Ronde Barber. -
WINNERS? The mayor interviews Ronde Barber.

It's funny how quickly things change in politics. Three weeks ago, it made almost no sense for Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio to think about running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Mel Martinez in 2010.

Today, it makes almost no sense for her not to run.

"It was not something I was considering when there was a possibility that [Florida CFO] Alex Sink might run," Iorio told me for the PoHo blog ( on the morning that news of her interest in the Senate appeared online. "But since she bowed out, I have had people talk to me about it. So I am analyzing it, and that's where I am right now. I have not ruled it out.

"I don't want to make more of this than it really is," she laughed. "I haven't organized anything. I am analyzing."

I reminded the Democratic mayor that she told me last year that she was inclined against running for a legislative-type seat when her term ends in 2011, enjoying elected offices that are more administrative in nature. But she said Tuesday that the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Senate is so unique — and an open seat such a rarity — that she feels she has to think about it seriously.

"At that level, it is such an opportunity to have an impact on the issues of today that I just can't let it go by without knowing that I analyzed it and did everything that I could to come to a good conclusion," Iorio said about the Senate race. "I'm talking to people who have supported me for many years. Just to say no to people [who are urging her to consider a campaign] just didn't seem like the right thing to do. I've got to look at all the facts and see if it is something that is right for me and my family."

Her advantages in a Senate campaign? She likely will be the only major female candidate in either party. She could be the only candidate from the I-4 corridor (although Lakeland's Rick Dantzler is being talked up as another possible Democrat). The two announced Democrats, Kendrick Meek and Dan Gelber, share bases in South Florida and could split that vote in half. Iorio is more moderate than those two (a slight disadvantage in the primary). It is an open seat (a rarity). And there is no big-name statewide politico running. (Sink, Jeb! and Attorney General Bill McCollum already have opted out.)

Disadvantages? She is not deeply ingrained as a partisan in the Democratic Party, and some party activists have questioned her commitment to the national ticket in past presidential elections. And Iorio would have to raise as much as $30 million, when her previous top campaign didn't quite reach half a million dollars.

Aside from personal considerations, the mayor is mulling a no-brainer: Run and get your name out there statewide, and even if you lose, you have a leg up to run for governor whenever Charlie Crist leaves office.

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