Iorio Ponders As Mayor’s Race Cranks Up

Enjoy it while it lasts.

This political lull, that is, before the mayoral race cranks up — and likely gets down and dirty — after the holidays. The gubernatorial and county commission primaries and elections kept much of the mayoral machinations below public radar in 2002. Not so in the truncated new election year. It will be an all-out, bombast-away campaign through the March 4 election to the run-off on the 25th.

It’s a given that Frank Sanchez will be further characterized as a return-of-the-native carpetbagger in need of a long learning curve. Expect to see him skewered over his affiliation with the Bill Clinton Administration, where he was assistant secretary of transportation.

Look for Bob Buckhorn to be further flayed for ambition portrayed as blind and calculated and priorities parodied as too enamored of potholes and six-foot ordinances.

Charlie Miranda will be referenced, albeit more politely, as an old school Luddite with a narrow base. Not having an ATM card or a high-speed internet connection won’t be seen as a folksy quirk in a high-tech age.

Don Ardell will just keep reminding folks that he is not to be taken seriously.

And then there’s Pam Iorio, the highly visible, highly regarded Patron Saint of Elections.

An early Christmas stocking stuffer was that recent poll commissioned by friends that showed her with big margins over the competition. The results, says Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections, were better than expected.

“Frankly, I needed convincing,” acknowledges Iorio. “I had totally taken myself out of the race. I had totally focused on the election.”

The poll, which had her blessing, was reassuring, she says.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive reinforcement this year,” Iorio says, “and it’s been occurring every single day of my life for the last six months. Yet, you don’t want to read too much into that. But I’ve been in public life for 18 years, and that didn’t happen for the first 17.

“Now this poll, which I think was very objective, showed a lot of popular public support,” adds Iorio. “I think it’s reflective of a larger pool of public opinion out there. I also think it demonstrates that there’s still a void in this race.”

For the record, Iorio doesn’t see herself as “wavering” in her decision, which will be announced right after the holidays. “I’m being analytical,” she notes.

And could she make up for lost time? “Whether or not I can raise a certain amount of money in a short period of time is a factor,” Iorio concedes. “I think I will be able to. But money is not the most important thing.”

So will she? “I’m going to wait until after the Christmas tree comes down,” she says. “However, I’m much more encouraged than discouraged.”

Which hardly sounds like “no.”

Conventional wisdom, which may be as wise as it is conventional in this case, says that an Iorio candidacy most impacts Sanchez. He has, for example, key supporters who were on the early Iorio bandwagon. They’ll remain with Sanchez, but it underscores the overlap.

Sanchez’s take on candidate Iorio? “She is a good public servant and a good supervisor,” he says. “I don’t think we’ll be doing anything differently no matter who else gets in the race. Beyond that, I don’t want to get into the analyst business.”

He is, however, very much in the battle plan mode, he underscores, preparing for “an air and ground attack.” He’s even added savvy media meister Kevin Kalwary as a press secretary for the final push.

“I’m focused on implementing our campaign plan and getting our message out,” he says. “And it’s about to be unleashed. This is grass roots the likes of which this city has never seen. We’ll be mounting very strong direct mail and TV campaigns. In mid-January I’ll be on TV, and I won’t come off until election day.

“I’ve been at this for 11 months,” Sanchez points out. “We’ve raised the money we need. We have 1,000 volunteers. We’re geared up.”

As for Buckhorn, he had appraising grace for Iorio as well as a rationale for why her entry wouldn’t alter his status.

“Pam is eminently qualified, a very viable opponent and clearly raises the level of debate,” he says. “But from my perspective, it doesn’t affect me at all. We enjoy a loyal, solid base that isn’t going to be swayed by the flavor of the month.”

But what of that poll?

“That’s a temporary snapshot,” reasons Buckhorn. “Pam is coming off an election cycle with a lot of free press. And you expect that. But does that translate into good governance? That’s up to the voters.

“And frankly, I don’t intend to talk about her during the campaign. I’m not running against her. I’m running for something. For mayor, the CEO of this city.”

Charlie Miranda stayed true to form. Blunt and deadpan.

“With polls, it’s a matter of which one do you believe,” noted Miranda. “Everybody’s got one but me. It’s a waste of money. It can tell you something that you want it to say.”

But he definitely believes in welcome mats. The more, the merrier for Miranda.

“I welcome Pam Iorio to the race,” he says. “In fact, I say to her: ‘Just go on and do it. It’s not hard to say yes.’

“The public should have a variety of choices,” maintains Miranda. “I’m looking for three or four more. It helps me. My base knows I’m ‘Plain Charlie.” I don’t candy coat; I’m only about the facts. My base is not going to move, waver or change. You can’t say that about the other candidates. I’m gonna sit back and watch this for a while.”

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