Julie Jenkins supporters believe she can beat Charlie Miranda

charlie miranda

Conventional wisdom in political circles in Tampa is that once Charlie Miranda announced a few weeks ago that he would indeed be a candidate in the Tampa City Council citywide District 2 contest, he automatically became the prohibitive favorite to win that contest. That theory is based on the assumption that with his long political life in Tampa (he first was elected to the Council some 40 years ago), he’ll win on name recognition alone.

But perhaps not surprisingly, that was absolutely not the sentiment expressed earlier this week in a ballroom at the The DoubleTree Tampa Westshore hotel, where over 100 people gathered for a fundraiser for neighborhood activist Julie Jenkins, making her third bid for office in Tampa.

“I think she’s got a good chance,” says Council member Mary Mulhern, who introduced Jenkins to the crowd before the candidate gave her prepared remarks at the event. “I met Julie on my first or second campaign and we campaigned together two election cycles in a row, ” she recounted. “She’s an incredible grassroots campaigner. She’s a woman. She works really hard. I think she’s got a good chance.”

Mulhern’s former progressive partner on Council, Linda Saul-Sena, seconded that emotion.

“I think Julie can win, ” she said after signing in at the event. “I believe people in Tampa are ready for some fresh energy for this citywide spot.”

Like Charlie Miranda, Linda Saul-Sena has spent considerable time on the Council, where she was originally elected back in 1987. She cited as precedent Mulhern’s upset victory over Shawn Harrison back in 2007 as a template that Jenkins could follow in getting past her better known opponent.

“Mary ran against a City Council member who was an incumbent who had been in a single-member district who had never run citywide before,” Saul-Sena recounted. “Mary also worked hard, ran hard, and was successful. It was a close race (she won by by just two percentage points), but she was successful. In that same vein, I think that Julie has the potential of being successful.” Mulhern was also out-fundraised by Harrison by a 4-1 ratio in that contest.

Jenkins says she offers a fresh perspective and positive energy to the local political scene. When asked about challenging Miranda (as well as Republican Joe Citro), she says, “Charlie thinks differently. Joe thinks differently and I think differently, and I think I’ve got what it takes to lead Tampa into the future.”

She says she’s responsive to the community and the neighborhoods, and has been for years. “So if people want that type of person who takes their voice downtown, I’m that voice. A lot of people want that voice.”

After Jenkins lost in a runoff to Harry Cohen in the District 4 race in 2011, she says she received a number of calls from prospective employers, including one from somebody who told her she should check out the situation at St. Peter Claver Catholic School Tampa just south of Ybor City. She says she feels she’s accomplished after being hired as development director there later in 2011.

“When I went down there, I thought, there’s only 80 students. Why are you even talking to me?” But now we have over 200 students. We’ve got iPads. We’ve got textbooks. We’ve got computers. It’s just a matter of somebody getting out there and telling the story. That’s what I’m so good at.”

Whether she can translate that energy to enough voters is something that remains to be seen. Mulhern and Saul-Sena both predict that this could be an extremely low-turnout election, which could boost those candidates who don’t have the biggest fundraising chests but can get their base of supporters out to the polls.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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