Tampa City Council races to watch in red wave aftermath
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This year’s municipal cycle could be an interesting one given several headline-making issues this year.

All Tampa City Council districts are up for election this year and of those, five have at least three candidates running so far.

This year’s municipal cycle could be an interesting one given several headline-making issues this year.

Most recently, the Nov. 8 Midterm Elections proved disastrous for Hillsborough Democrats, who saw the Hillsborough County Commission flip red for the first time since 2018 when Commissioner Pat Kemp secured the advantage. Democrats expanded that advantage in 2020 and by this year’s election, held a 5-2 majority on the board. That toppled on Nov. 8 when Commissioners Mariella Smith and Kimberly Overman both lost their re-election bids. Smith lost by more than 5 percentage points while Overman lost by nearly that. It could have been even worse. Commissioner Harry Cohen nearly lost his seat, securing re-election by just 0.7 percentage points.

That GOP momentum could motivate Republicans to run for the historically all-blue City Council, especially given how unlikely the Commission victories seemed.

Cohen’s narrow victory came despite raising $215,000 in the race, about $190,000 more than his GOP challenger. Smith out-raised her opponent by about the same amount; Overman by even more. 

While only one Republican has filed for a City Council seat so far, Chase Harrington in District 1, the rest of the ballot isn’t, so far, entirely blue. One registered Independent has filed (Cornelius Hamilton in District 5) and a no-party affiliated candidate, Michael Derewenko, has filed in District 2.

While none of those candidates are known names in Tampa political circles, and it’s too early to tell whether they’ll be able to raise enough funds to run competitive bids, the Hillsborough example could send the message to candidates that it doesn’t matter.

As previously stated, the two GOP candidates who ousted Smith and Overman raised paltry sums, as did a failed GOP candidate that managed to come within less than 900 votes of victory. Two of the candidates were also not part of the mainstream political dialogue before their races.

It’s worth noting that while candidates’ political affiliations are often known, and a matter of public record, Tampa municipal races are non-partisan and candidates cannot advertise their affiliation in campaign-related materials, events or talking points.

This election could also serve as a referendum on the current state of City Council, which saw two scandals unfold this year. One, a public records lawsuit, prompted John Dingfelder to resign. The other, a sexual harassment allegation, prompted Orlando Gudes to resign his position as board chair, though he remained on Council.

Gudes is now seeking re-election and Dingfelder’s appointed replacement, Lynn Hurtak, has frequently been at odds with Mayor Jane Castor’s administration, which brings us to our next point.

City Council has formed, basically, into two voting blocs: Those who support Castor and her administration, and those who don’t. 

Hurtak, along with Gudes and Bill Carlson, fit squarely in the Castor opposition. Joe Citro, Charlie Miranda, Luis Viera and, at least recently, Guido Mansicalco have been reliable Castor allies on Council.

The most glaring example, and the one prompting many to accuse Council of rampant dysfunction, sent a meeting into a tense shouting match. At issue at the early November meeting was a proposal to change the city charter to require the Mayor to name an interim department head, which would remain under the interim title until City Council approval, a move that would ostensibly roll back executive power. The measure failed, along the Castor/Not Castor lines. 

But it means while Castor will literally be on the ballot at the top, she’ll also be on it figuratively at the bottom. It’s likely that the Castor question, either implied or direct, will appear most significantly in the District 3 race where former Sen. Janet Cruz, whose daughter Ana Cruz is Castor’s partner, is challenging Hurtak.

There’s not much time before Tampa’s municipal election, which occurs on March 7, but it’s shaping up to be a politically interesting three months. 

Here’s a round-up of who’s on the ballot so far:

District 1

Sonja Brookins — Brookins previously ran for County Commission, but withdrew from the race before the Democratic Primary. She’s a current member of the Soil and Water Conservation District in seat 4, where she’s served since 2021. Brookins background includes teaching science and work as an adjunct professor. When running for the Soil and Water board she said her priorities were clean water and environmental justice and emphasized the importance of focusing on marginalized communities. Brookins has yet to post any fundraising activity and didn’t file any required reports in September or October.

Joe Citro — Citro is the current City Council chair, where he was one of four members to vote against the proposed charter changes that would have limited Castor’s executive power. He’ll likely be a tough incumbent to topple and has already banked $15,650, as of Oct. 31.

Alan Clendenin — Clendenin has been here before. He lost a 2019 bid for the same seat to Walter Smith, who then went on to lose to Citro. Clendenin secured just over 19% of the vote in that race, and is looking to boost his performance this time around. So far, he’s keeping pace with Citro in the money race, bringing in $11,263 as of Oct. 31. And he has broad name recognition in political circles, particularly among Democrats. Castor appointed Clendenin to the Tampa Civil Service Board and he serves on the Tampa Bay Area Committee on Foreign Relations. He previously chaired the Florida Democratic Party Platform Committee and vied in the past for state chair of the Democratic Party. Clendenin hasn’t been shy about criticizing the incumbent, saying Citro was “the ringmaster of this circus” and accusing him of using the dais to grandstand.

Chase Harrison — The only Republican to file for a Council seat so far, Harrison ran for County Commission in 2022, losing in the Primary to Joshua Wostal, the GOP candidate who defeated Overman. Harrison is a semi-retired pilot who served in the Air Force and in the Tampa Police Department. Harrison filed for the City Council race this month, so does not have any finance reports available yet. But in the Primary for Hillsborough Commission he raised less than $16,000, casting doubt about whether he can match the fundraising potential of his Democratic rivals. 

District 2

Guido Maniscalco — Maniscalco is the current District 6 incumbent and current City Council Vice Chair. He’s facing term-limits in his district and is running in the countywide District 2 to re-set the clock, a common seat-swapping tactic on both Council and the County Commission. While Maniscalco has recently sided with the pro-Castor Council voting bloc, he has in the past shown his ability to be independent and can be considered a swing vote on contentious issues pitting the sides against one another, which could serve him well if he can use that to appeal to voters regardless of their allegiances. As of Oct. 31, Mansicalco had already raised $13,475 in the race.

Michael Derewenko — Derewenko has raised just $3,200 as of Oct. 31 and is not affiliated with a political party. He entered the race in September.

Kevin Hughes — The little-known Democrat has not yet raised any cash. He entered the race in October, so it’s early days.

District 3

Amanda Lynn Hurtak — Hurtak is the incumbent, but this will be the first time she faces voters for the seat, previously held by Dingfelder. She was appointed following his resignation and is firmly with the minority of Council that votes against Castor. She filed for the race in late October, so a first glimpse into her fundraising prowess isn’t expected until next month.

Janet Cruz — Cruz lost her re-election bid for the Florida Senate and announced her City Council campaign shortly after the Nov. 8 election. Her family ties to Castor through her daughter are expected to be a large issue in the race. Any perceived negatives that may come from that, however, are likely to be overshadowed by her ability to run a solid campaign. While Cruz fell to a Republican amid a red wave this year, she over-performed most Democrats in Hillsborough and throughout the state and has consistently shown a strong ability to raise a lot of cash. With her strong political connections, she’s also likely to have an all star cast of campaign consultants ensuring no missteps or managing any that may arise. Cruz will not post her first fundraising report until next month. 

Gwendolyn Henderson — Henderson has also not yet posted campaign finance reports in the race yet. Like Cruz, she won’t file her first report until next month. She, like Hurtak and Cruz, is a Democrat. 

District 4

Carlson is the incumbent and is eligible to run for re-election, however he has not yet filed, nor has anyone else. It’s highly likely Carlson will run, but this one is still in the TBD column.

District 5

Orlando Gudes — The incumbent Democrat will likely face strong backlash over scandals that have plagued his first term. While he did not resign and a sexual harassment lawsuit against him was dismissed, two colleagues — Citro and Viera — called on him to step down. A city probe into allegations against him found Gudes created a hostile work environment and made sexual and misogynistic comments toward an aide, the aide’s daughter and Castor. Following the report, Castor said she would fire him if she could. Gudes has not yet posted any fundraising, as he just entered the race this month.

Cornelius Hamilton — Hamilton is the only registered Independent to file for a City Council seat so far and doesn’t appear to be campaigning. He entered the race in July and has yet to raise any funds. He also does not have an online presence. 

Evelyn Jane-Marie McBride: — McBride does not have a voter record on file, according to the most recent L2 voter data. She also does not have an online presence and has not raised any funds despite entering the race in June. 

Jeffrey Rhodes — Likely the only viable candidate in the race, Rhodes is launching a re-match against Gudes and could be in stronger position this time around. Rhodes lost to Gudes in 2019 by just over 150 votes, and this time he has headline-grabbing scandals to attack, rather than a race against a respected retired police officer. Rhodes is the only candidate in the race so far to post any fundraising, $7,275 (including $4,000 from himself).

District 6

Hoyt Prindle III — Prindle so far is the second-highest fundraiser of any City Council race so far, behind only an incumbent who has yet to draw a challenger. Prindle, a lawyer, is running to address the city’s transportation and affordable housing needs. He also has a strong civic record, with volunteer stints with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and on boards for the Transportation Planning Organization Citizens Advisory Committee and other transportation-related boards. He’s raised nearly $24,000 as of the end of October. 

Tyler Barrett — Barrett has run for City Council before, launching a brief bid in 2015 while still an undergraduate student at the University of Tampa, but ultimately withdrawing from the race that Cohen, a former City Council member, went on to win. At the time, he said he wanted to increase conversations about homelessness and human trafficking. He previously worked on Nan Rich’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign, which she lost in the Democratic Primary to Charlie Crist. Barrett wants to ban plastic water bottles and is running on top issues including transportation, housing, air quality and livability. Barrett has raised $3,100 since entering the race in October.

Rick Fifer — The Tampa realtor won’t file his first financial reports until next month, as he just entered the race in November, but he’s been active on Facebook since filing. On Nov. 20 he lamented that it was “disappointing that 4 members were more concerned (with) currying favor with the administration than safeguarding Council’s relevance over the TWO spheres it can exert accountability,” referring to the vote on charter changes that would roll back Castor’s executive authority. He also does not support multifamily zoning changes to increase density, arguing rental housing is “transient and brings with it higher social costs.” He echoed that in another post, further elaborating that transient housing leads to increased crime. Instead, Fifer wants to increase homeownership opportunities.

Charlie Miranda* — Miranda has not filed for the race, but he’s been known to wait until closer to the election to do so. As he faces term limits in his current District 2 seat, his most likely move would be to seat swap with Maniscalco for District 6. Stay tuned.

District 7

Luis Viera — So far unopposed, Viera has raised more than $48,000 for re-election.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Elliott Offen

    December 1, 2022 at 10:39 am

    People who have been living here for decades are moving out and being replaced by racist dregs of NYC and New Jersey… because of the fascist takeover. Biden needs to send the military down here and sort out the far right filth, the anti-government terrorists, and the snake oil salesmen.

    • Charlotte Greenbarg

      December 2, 2022 at 1:13 pm

      You’re an example of why this state is now RED! Keep posting trash talk, we love it.

Comments are closed.


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