Every Monday night since the beginning of the year, a dozen or so women gather at Sanchez headquarters on Kennedy Boulevard to brainstorm ways to help their candidate. They look for means, from mixers to backyard proselytizing, to network the Sanchez message. The genesis goes back to the fall, when target niches were evolving into entities such as “Artists for Sanchez.” The re-emergence of candidate Pam Iorio — formidable and female — accelerated the evolution of what is now “Women for Sanchez.”
“Yes, Pam entering the race made it more critical,” acknowledges Joli Cooper, who’s responsible for the Sanchez campaign’s outreach to women. “Women otherwise uninformed about the candidates might possibly vote for Pam. Being the only female candidate can still be very much of an advantage. The ‘We’ve-come-a-long-way-baby’ stuff still applies. Women like to see other women succeed and support each other.
“Our message is economic development first and personal and neighborhood safety,” says Cooper, who’s also president and chief operating officer of Cooper Nelson & Associates, a Tampa-based business and marketing consultant firm. “And as a woman and an African American, I want a candidate who stands behind inclusion.”
The mix on a recent Monday night ranged from 20-something to 50-something and was dotted with professional women.
“Frank wants Tampa to be more than just the hospitality and customer service capital,” explained Susan Jacobs, a single mom and businesswoman. “Women care about this, especially a lot of single moms.”
To Anneliese Meier, a businesswoman and the lone Republican in the group, Sanchez’s sense of ethics was determinative. “I don’t want to see Tampa become another Miami-Dade,” she said. “Very corrupt. They get away with it. But don’t forget. We also want what everybody wants: a healthy, safe place to live.”
But what of the flip-flop-flip flap over Sanchez’s stand on Ye Mystic Krewe’s all-male membership?
“This group is not a reaction to the Ye Mystic Krewe issue,” pointed out Maryann Ferenc Blitz, the Sanchez campaign manager. “If you want to call it a matter of ‘political inexperience’, we can live with that. We know what Frank Sanchez stands for. Diversity is a real piece of Frank’s life. This outreach is real. We’re not conceding any constituency. Diversity is important to building our economy.”