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Iorio's running, with election 2 months away

Facing the mayoral election on March 4, Pam Iorio must raise both campaign funds and issues quickly.

By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2003


TAMPA -- With the Hillsborough River and skyline behind her, Supervisor of Elections Pam Iorio told about 400 supporters Monday morning that she wants to be the next mayor of Tampa.

Iorio silenced months of speculation by announcing she wants to be the mayor who pursues big ideas while excelling at the mundane work citizens expect of government.

"I want to lead this city because I see what it can be," Iorio said.

She painted a picture of a downtown Tampa where people come to live and stroll along its riverwalk, and to stop by one of its future restaurants for a cup of coffee on a brisk January morning. And she spoke of neighborhoods and new parks where residents rich and poor should feel safe to take a family stroll at night.

Iorio, 43, joins three major candidates for Tampa mayor who have been campaigning nearly a year for the March 4 election. The only woman in the race, Iorio said her administration would place an emphasis on diversity and making sure all city residents enjoy the same good government service.

Friends worked the phones over the weekend to assemble the crowd at the University of Tampa riverfront. The supporters included older women who had worked on Iorio's first campaign for Hillsborough County Commission 18 years ago, some of Iorio's former teachers and coaches, community activists and poll workers.

South Tampa resident Ellie Montague toted a sign reading, "Pam Iorio for Mayor, Oh Yes!" because, she said, "That's the way I felt when I heard she was going to run."

Many said they were Iorio fans from her 10 years as supervisor of elections. During her tenure she earned accolades for smooth elections, even as Florida's voting system was held to national ridicule in 2000. They applauded as Iorio, hoarse from laryngitis, reminded them.

"Yes, we live in a time of uncertainty," Iorio said. "But you can count on one thing: You know that you have always been able to depend on me."

Iorio submitted her resignation as supervisor of elections to Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday; it takes effect Jan. 18. Bush will appoint a replacement, but his office hasn't given a timetable other than to say it is treating the matter as a priority, given the particular opening and upcoming election.

With just two months to go before the election, Iorio will have to act quickly to raise money and define her platform. She outlined three areas of immediate commitment Monday.

First, Iorio said she wants to make Tampa a more "livable" city, improving basic services such as roadways, sidewalks, drainage and parks. She wants to build more parks and applauded current Mayor Dick Greco's effort to create a greenways system.

She said she wants to build on the city's assets to attract quality business. Specifically, she proposed offering incentives to entrepreneurs willing to set up shop in poor areas.

And she said public safety would be top priority, especially since Sept. 11.

Iorio was considered a likely front-runner for mayor when she announced last March that she wouldn't enter the campaign. She said she needed to oversee the installation of a new voting machine system after the 2000 debacle.

With that task behind her, and getting lobbied heavily to get back in, she did just that.

Bob Buckhorn, the Tampa City Council member who has been campaigning for mayor for at least 18 months, welcomed Iorio into the race Monday, saying residents enjoy the vigorous discourse that occurs with more candidates.

He portrayed himself as a person who has been working for city residents for 16 years, first as a top aide to former Mayor Sandy Freedman and now as a City Council member.

"This is not a drive-by mayoral campaign," he said. "This is something you live, sleep and eat because that's what the people expect of you."

Iorio emphasized her experience both setting government policy as a two-term Hillsborough commissioner and as an administrator of the elections office for the past 10 years.

Frank Sanchez, a business consultant, former state transportation division director and aide to the Bill Clinton White House, said he is happy to compare resumes.

"I have worked in 30 countries and at the top levels of government," Sanchez said. "I look forward to talking about those experiences and which ones are better suited to running a major city and which are better suited for holding an election."

Charlie Miranda, the City Council member who proudly wears the label dark horse, used to race them too. Indeed, he says he's had three of the most dangerous jobs, including running a restaurant, as well as being a politician and running horses.

"I think the public's entitled to have additional individuals run, of varying fields and different experiences," Miranda said. "I don't run my campaign by anyone being in and out."

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