By just 65 votes, Luis Viera defeated Jim Davison in the Tampa City Council District 7 special run-off election, taking 50.64 percent to Davison’s 49.36 percent, a difference of only a single percentage point.
Viera received 2,588 votes to Davison’s 2,523, just 65 votes out of 5,120 cast.
The special election was held to succeed Lisa Montelione, who was re-elected without opposition to the North Tampa district seat in early 2015. Last fall, Montelione announced that she would run for the state Legislature, creating the opening for a new candidate.
Turnout for the runoff was low on Election Day, with 815 people voting. The clear majority of those who did participate voted by mail — 3,730. In four days of early voting (Thursday through Sunday), an additional 575 people cast ballots.
Viera’s victory maintains an all-Democratic Tampa City Council. If Davison had won, he would have been the first Republican on the board since Joseph Caetano, a District 7 councilmember defeated by Montelione when he ran for re-election in 2011.
Viera was endorsed by top Tampa area Democrats like Congresswoman Kathy Castor and City Council Chair Mike Suarez, a longtime friend. He also received a late endorsement from Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who said he was irked by Davison’s statement in the last week of the campaign that he would not dismiss the idea of threatening New Tampa secede from the rest of Tampa.
Although some speculated that Buckhorn would have ultimately endorsed Viera anyway, a fellow Democrat, Davison’s “Brexit”-like attitude made for a more dramatic element to the race.
A poll Friday by St. Pete Polls showed the two candidates tied at 39 percent, with 21 percent undecided. Undecideds apparently broke for Viera, if just narrowly.
For the 62-year-old Davison, this is his third loss running for office. He failed at two previous attempts for Hillsborough County Commission in 2002 and 2004.
Davison was also the co-founder of the New Tampa Transportation Task Force and has served on other transportation committees, including the Committee of ’99, which endorsed the idea of a sales tax to pay for transportation improvements.
Viera is a 38-year-old attorney with the downtown Tampa law firm of Ogden & Sullivan. He has been a member of the city of Tampa’s Civil Service Review Board since 2011.
Like Davison, Viera too is a resident of Hunter’s Green in New Tampa.
In the race, Viera raised more than four times the amount of campaign cash as Davison: $107,474 to Davison’s $25,630.
For the first round of voting Nov. 8, Davison won a plurality of votes in a six-person field. Viera came in second, behind by nearly eight percentage points (31-22 percent).
Two of the four remaining candidates – Avis Harrison and Cyril Spiro – endorsed Davison, while the other two Democrats in the contest – retired police officer Orlando Gudes and La Gaceta writer/editor Gene Siudut – opted to stay neutral.
The fact that Viera wasn’t endorsed by competitors “spoke volumes,” Davison charged at a debate in Forest Hills last week.
District 7 includes New Tampa, the University area, Terrace Park, Forest Hills and Temple Crest.
Viera will make $43,139 annually in what is considered a part-time job.