No Reason To Celebrate Run-Off Victories

For last week’s city council run-off, the turnout (15 per cent) was higher than expected. But, then again, we didn’t have any expectations. Anyway, that’s the good news.

The bad news is that the District 7 seat on city council went to a guy, Joseph Caetano, who doesn’t much like being part of the city and was endorsed by — and campaigned with — Charles “White Chocolate” Perkins.

Recall that Caetano introduced “de-annexation” to the political conversation. He will represent the Duchy of New Tampa the way it wants to be represented – reluctantly until secession.

Then there’s the District 1 seat that was retained by the incumbent, 72-year-old Gwen Miller. If ever an election made the case for undervoting, this one did.

For 12 years Miller has been the beneficiary of a political conspiracy of silence: She’s the nice, quiet lady of color that no one wants to be seen as beating up on. She’s less than conversant on the issues and doesn’t speak well when she tries. But she does have people like Jim Davis, Dick Greco and Les Miller speaking up for her.

As it turned out, Miller Lite also benefited by having Joe Redner, 66, as her run-off opponent. That he was more articulate, better on the issues and no longer dressed in a bowling alley ensemble for public forums didn’t matter enough. He had serious baggage and never quite lost that dismissive attitude. His congratulatory phone call to Miller has yet to be placed. Arguably, the anti-Redner sentiment trumped the “what-the-hell,” shake-up-the-establishment vote.

Gadflies, to be sure, can be fun – as well as effective – but this one was a millionaire nudie-club owner who had sued the city countless times. And lest anyone focus unduly on his pertinent views, he went out of his way to remind everybody of his strip-joint rep with that political manna for Miller, the counterproductive “I Voted!” promotion.

Redner’s election would have guaranteed Tampa exposure, so to speak, on Comedy Central. He — and his club, the Mons Venus — were the reason that marquees in places such as Las Vegas would — and did — advertise “Tampa-style” lap-dancing. Even consenting adults didn’t want his kind of business near their neighborhoods.

Had, say, Randy Barron or maybe Julie Jenkins made the run-off instead of Joe Redner, the results might have been different. MIGHT have. That still presupposes an electorate moved more by candidate qualifications than apathy, party fealty or political correctness.

In the end, there were two winners but no reason for anyone else to be celebrating.

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