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Friday, March 09, 2007

Mulhern Wins, Redner Forces Miller into a Run Off

Mary Mulhern narrowly defeated city councilman Shawn Harrison for Tampa's citywide 3nd city council district on Tuesday by 13,180 votes to 12,592. Though technically nonpartisan, with only two candidates - one Republican (Harrison) and one Democratic (Mulhern) - the race quickly became a test of the strength of each party. After years of seeing Tampa Bay become steadily more Republican, Mulhern and Bay Area Democrats showed unexpected life by out hustling the better funded Harrison. Hillsborough Democrats saw it as an opportunity to seize the intiative in an area that had been trending Republican in recent years. Mulhern was outspent, with Harrison raising a record $215,000 for his city council campaign to swamp Mulhern's $48,000 in contributions. Much of Harrison's money went into television ads, while his opponent focused on direct mail. This represents a notable success for Democrats in the area, because the seat is also a pick up for the party - it's previous holder was a now County Commissioner Rose Ferlita, a Republican.

I was not convinced that the hard work and shoe leather of Mulhern's supporters would be enough against Harrison, but she proved me wrong. Kudos to Blurbex for seeing Mulhern's way to victory relatively early in the race (before she earned the endorsement of the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune).

In the other exciting race, incumbent Gwen Miller will face a run off with provacateur Joe Redner. Miller looked vulnerable, but finished strong as the highest vote getter by a 1,000 vote margin - but in a crowded field (there were six candidates), that was never going to be enough. Redner did not spend much of his own money in the primary, counting on name recognition from his race against county commissioner Jim Norman to carry him into a run off. Now that he's made it, there's no way of knowing whether or not he'll dip into his own, deep pockets to finance the second leg of the campaign.

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