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Iorio enters Tampa’s crowded race for mayor

TAMPA — She woke up with a case of laryngitis on the morning of one of the most important political speeches of her career.

But not even a sore throat and wavering voice could keep Pam Iorio from shouting her long-awaited announcement.

“It’s a beautiful day to announce that today, I announce my candidacy to be the next mayor of the City of Tampa,” Iorio said to a cheering crowd of about 200 gathered at the University of Tampa. “I’ve made this decision because I love this community.”

Iorio, who described herself as a product of the city of Tampa, pointed over her shoulder and across the Hillsborough River to the city’s skyline as she described the platforms she will pursue during the short 57-day period left before the March 4 election.

Iorio said her main goal is to make Tampa a more livable city. She said she wants to see improved roadways and an improved police and fire fighting force. Economically, Iorio said she will offer incentives to investors willing to take a risk in an effort to expand Tampa’s economy into areas previously thought to be downtrodden.

“I want children growing up in Tampa’s poorest neighborhoods to see life as full of possibilities (and) not limited by their economic circumstances,” Iorio said.

Tampa’s mayoral race has been crowded for quite some time, with upwards of six candidates entered. Iorio said her experience as a county commissioner and 10 years of service as the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections has given her the kind of experience that will separate her from the pack. In addition, she said she will distinguish herself as the candidate who brings people back to politics.

“People expect a leader of a city who knows how to get the job done,” Iorio said. “A mayor must reflect inclusion of all citizens.”

Iorio’s campaign will face many challenges. Most noteworthy is the several-month head start other candidates have in campaigning.

Iorio, who will resign as supervisor of elections Jan. 18, said she chose to wait to declare her candidacy until she had gotten past the Nov. 4 elections and the implementation of a new touchscreen voting system, later called a success.

Iorio said the new voting system, which provided her with some all-important media exposure, was a proud moment during her tenure as election supervisor.

Iorio said she made her decision to run for mayor during the holidays and does not see the short campaign period as a substantial roadblock. In fact, she said she identifies it as just another challenge.

“I like challenges,” Iorio said. “I work the best under that kind of pressure.”

But the greatest challenge for Iorio will probably come as she is thrown into the large pool of candidates, some of whom have the benefit of full wallets.

Four other candidates remain currently in the race. There are two Tampa politicians, a former Washington insider and a nationally ranked runner.

Bob Buckhorn has been a Tampa city councilman since 1995. He is running on a platform of experience that his campaign calls the “Buckhorn Plan — Building a World Class City Neighborhood by Neighborhood.” Buckhorn has suggested that, as mayor, the city will work closely with USF.

Also serving on the Tampa City Council, Charlie Miranda wants voters to consider their “Miranda Rights.” Miranda is running on a platform that calls for a cleaner, safer Tampa, improved recreational facilities and a more efficient government.

Frank Sanchez brings the most money to the table, which can be vital in a tight race. Sanchez worked in the White House during the presidency of Bill Clinton and joins Buckhorn in promising to work with USF. Sanchez has come under attack by the other candidates as an outsider.

The real wild-card candidate is fitness buff Don Ardell. Ardell has called himself the “prettiest of all the candidates,” maintaining community wellness as an important part of his platform. Ardell says he wants to improve the service of city officials by keeping their anger in check. He will use his motivational speaking skills in the race.

The competition for Iorio seems stiff. Fellow candidates are both well-known and respected in the community. But Iorio said she cannot worry about her competitors.

“It doesn’t matter who else is in the race,” Iorio said. “I just have to focus on my own agenda.”