Take your pick

There’s a socialist and a health guru. There are two city councilmen and a former supervisor of elections. There is even a former Clinton White House insider.

If nothing else can be said for today’s Tampa mayoral election, there is a wide range of candidate personalities and backgrounds. And with five candidates on the ballot and two write-ins, voters have plenty of choices.

In such a crowded election, Tuesday may not be the end. If no candidate secures a majority of the vote, there will be a runoff between the top two candidates. In the latest polls, Pam Iorio has had a decided advantage, but the race for second is still very close. Polls have also shown that about a third of those asked are still undecided.

The only sure thing is that one of seven people will become Tampa’s next mayor. Here is a quick look at the candidates.

Don Ardell

Ardell is not a traditional politician, and that has been one of the strongest points in his campaign. An expert on healthy living, Ardell wants a Tampa that is “fit, fun, free and functional.”

Ardell is known in several countries for the books he has written about healthy living.

STRONG POINT: Ardell’s greatest asset is that he speaks his mind, and his dry wit has made him a surprisingly strong debater.

WEAK POINT: Ardell may be a little too far from the norm for most voters.

Bob Buckhorn

Buckhorn is the man with the plan, literally. Throughout his campaign, he has waved a booklet in the air that contains his plan for Tampa and challenged his fellow candidates to put their plans in writing.

Buckhorn said he believes in “connecting the dots” between Tampa’s widely spread areas of strength.

STRONG POINT: A sitting Tampa City Councilman, Buckhorn has had years of experience in local politics.

WEAK POINT: Buckhorn has been attacked lately for mudslinging tactics. He received a lot of bad publicity last weekend when fellow candidate Frank Sanchez called for an apology after a Buckhorn campaign letter accused him of using derogatory language.

Pam Iorio

As the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, Iorio gained national exposure during the controversial presidential election of 2000. She gained much more valuable local attention during last year’s gubernatorial election, when she successfully implemented a touch screen voting system.

Iorio said she wants Tampa to be more than just a city. She said she wants it to be a part of the larger region, working closely with neighboring counties.

It has only been 57 days since Iorio announced her candidacy. But, even with a short campaign, she has made her mark.

STRONG POINT:: Iorio’s troubleshooting was impressive during the media frenzy that surrounded the 2002 presidential election.

WEAK POINT: As her competitors have pointed out, Iorio comes from county government. While the difference between county and city government might be subtle, history has shown that mayoral candidates from the county have not fared well.

Charlie Miranda

Miranda has managed both a restaurant and a thoroughbred horse stable. He said the managerial skills developed in those occupations will make him a good mayor.

Miranda said he has a conservative approach, which he thinks that is best during troubling economic times when every bit of money counts.

Miranda is a member of the Tampa City Council.

STRONG POINT: With Miranda, what you see is what you get. His apparent honesty is refreshing in a politician. If Miranda becomes mayor, citizens of Tampa will know that he will always speak his mind.

WEAK POINT: To stimulate substantial economic growth in Tampa, Miranda may eventually have to take a chance. That may go against his conservative nature. Last week, Miranda said he would like to see the tech industries grow on their own. But, will Miranda be willing to make an investment should the need arise?

Frank Sanchez

Sanchez is an accomplished businessman and has conducted business in more than 30 countries. He has also worked in the White House.

After receiving a strong education, traveling the world and gaining experience, he said he wants to give something back to the community from which he came.

Sanchez said his business experience is what Tampa needs during trying economic times. He said he will help the economy blossom.

STRONG POINT: Sanchez’s education and business experience is impressive. He seemingly has the tools and connections to make Tampa an economic success.

WEAK POINT: Sanchez has been accused by his fellow candidates of having been away from Tampa for too long. They say he is no longer in touch with the city. He has denied that vehemently. But, whether true or not, perception is everything in politics, and it may hurt him today.


Neil Cosentino

Cosentino has lived an interesting life. He was a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War and has worked for the CIA.

But it is Cosentino’s love for airplanes that has influenced his current run for mayor and has led to his interesting theory for the city’s economic development.

Cosentino said Tampa needs to build a “mega airport” to compete with other cities. Such an airport would be able to accept huge planes and an increased number of international flights.

By increasing international flights, Cosentino said more business money will come to Tampa.

Rachele Fruit

As the socialist workers’ candidate, Fruit ran as a write-in for governor in 2002. Fruit represents workers and said she believes the current government only serves big business. She and her organization said they believe the current government cannot work, and that a socialist system is more appropriate.

Fruit said she advocates working wages.