It's Ferlita vs. Buckhorn in the Tampa mayoral race — Greco out

In an extremely tight election in which only 1,368 votes separated first place victor Rose Ferlita and the vanquished third place candidate Dick Greco, it will be Ferlita vs. Bob Buckhorn in the March 22 Tampa mayoral run-off election.

Ferlita, as many suspected she would, took home the most votes in tonight's election, but it was by no means a big win.  She took just slightly more than a quarter of all the votes: 25.7%, beating Buckhorn, who got 23.51% of the vote.  Dick Greco came in a very close third with 22.59% of the vote.

(In 2003, Buckhorn was in a similarly close race for a runoff spot; that year he barely lost to Frank Sanchez, who went on to lose the runoff vs. Pam Iorio.)

Ed Turanchik came in fourth, with 19.41% of the vote.  Tom Scott finished last, with 8.61%.

At Timpano's in Hyde Park, Ferlita took on the charges directly that she had been too general in discussing her plans for office, saying, "The issues were known, we discussed them, and I am here to tell you that this is a new day, this is a new race, and now it's just two people on the stage — everyone will know what Rose Ferlita's about."

She told CL's Elizabeth Graham, "Now I have the opportunity to shine. I’m there. I’m ready, I’m experienced."

CL was at the Buckhorn event at J.J.'s in Ybor City. He gave a big shout-out to the Tampa Firefighters, whose union endorsement months ago was a huge boost to his fledgling campaign. "They have the courage to do things that none of us want to do," he said excitedly about some of those men wearing red t-shirts in the tight crowd at the bar.  "They stood with me when nobody else would. Who came out early — the Tampa Firefighters!"

"They walked, they talked, they sweated, they bled with us and I will owe them a debt of gratitude I can never pay. We love our Tampa Firefighters."

He gave out some respect to Rose Ferlita, saying, "To the person who won tonight: a friend of mine. A former colleague of mine at City Council, Rose Ferlita. She's a good woman. She's going to run a good campaign. She's run a good campaign so far. I look forward to a competition of ideas, and comparing our plans. She is a worthy opponent. I respect her. I like her. We're going to fight hard. We're going to fight fair, and I look forward to a good three weeks campaigning with my friend Rose Ferlita."

Afterwards, Buckhorn told CL that Ferlita needed to start getting more specific about what her plans are for Tampa. "The city needs to know what the next mayor is going to do.  They need to plan to get there.  I mean, platitudes is not a plan for the future, and I think we've been very specific, we've put it in writing, and I'm looking forward to listening to what Commissioner Ferlita has."

Buckhorn said he would immediately begin trying to pick off supporters of Tom Scott, Ed Turanchik and Dick Greco. "They're good guys, they're good friends. They ran a great campaign. They've all served this city well. I want to build on their experiences and make their ideas part of my administration." Buckhorn said the first thing he would do Wednesday morning would be to reach out to all three of those men.

Some people were stunned that Dick Greco, the alleged heavyweight of the race, did not make it to the runoff in his fifth bid for mayor, but it didn't happen, as Buckhorn caught the momentum in the waning weeks.

"I don't feel good about this, but I believe in our system, and that's the way it turned out," he told his stunned supporters at Higgins Hall.