Tampa City Council member Luis Viera (center) celebrates his win on March 5 with Heritage Isles’ retired Colonel Mike Escudie (left) and Jon Fletcher, president of Vietnam Veterans of America of Tampa.

While no winner for Tampa mayor could be declared following the March 5 elections — Jane Castor and David Straz are headed to a run-off election on Tuesday, April 23 — it was abundantly clear who New Tampa wanted to represent our area on Tampa City Council in District 7.

Luis Viera, running for his first full term after finishing the remaining two years of Lisa Montelieone’s term following a 2016 special election, trounced opponent Quinton Robinson 76.2 percent to 23.8 percent at the Tampa Municipal Election on March 5.

Viera won 26 of the 29 precincts in Dist. 7 (which includes the Busch Gardens and Copeland Park areas, Forest Hills, USF and the city-based areas of New Tampa), compared to when he won just one precinct on his way to defeating fellow Hunter’s Green resident Jim Davison by only 65 votes in the 2016 run-off.

“When I ran in 2016, I ran against an individual in the run-off who a lot of people knew out here,” said Viera, referring to Davison, a long-time local activist on transportation issues and a twice-failed candidate for the Hillsborough County Commission (in 2002 and ’04). “I was a first time candidate. Things went my way. But, I stayed humble and knew I had to prove myself to people.”

Viera received the largest percentage of the vote among the other 23 candidates running for any of the seats in races for City Council Districts 1-6.

Buoyed by his record of founding the New Tampa Council and North Tampa Veterans Association and creating the Warrior Games Promotion Committee to promote attendance at the Warrior Games (which are coming to Tampa in June), as well as hosting a number of local town halls, with guests like Hillsborough County Dist. 2 County Commissioner Ken Hagan, Hillsborough Dist. 3 School Board member Cindy Stuart and outgoing Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s chief of staff, Dennis Rogero, Viera established himself as someone intent on raising the civic profile of New Tampa.

He also spearheaded support for the city’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which included nearly $2 million for the expansion of the New Tampa Recreation Center, and the design of a new sensory-friendly park in Tampa Palms.

“There were a lot of people who didn’t know me in New Tampa,” Viera says, “and I wanted to prove to them I was the right person for the job. I held their interests close to my heart, like the results showed.”

Robinson’s main argument was that Viera was too focused on New Tampa, but in precincts not located in New Tampa, Viera still won 66 percent of the vote, or 1,744 votes cast, to 901 for Robinson. 

In New Tampa’s precincts, Viera received 82 percent of the vote, with a ballot advantage of 4,062-910. In Hunter’s Green precinct No. 361, where Viera lives and a precinct he had lost handily to Davison, he had his biggest margin of victory, with 687 votes (or 88 percent) cast for him, compared to only 95 for Robinson.

Another local candidate, Pebble Creek’s Vibha Shevade, ran for the citywide District 3 City Council seat, but finished fourth with 11 percent of the vote. Top vote-getters John Dingfelder (with 48.96 percent; see ad below) and Stephen Lytle (20.26%) finished first and second, respectively, to advance to the April 23 run-off election. 

Castor, the former Tampa Police Chief, won 52 percent of the vote and every precinct in New Tampa, but couldn’t pass the 50-percent threshhold citywide (48%) and will take on Straz, who was second with 15 percent of the citywide vote

In New Tampa, Straz garnered 16 percent of the vote, while Harry Cohen had 12.5 percent. The other four candidates all finished in single digits.

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