TAMPA - Even after the sun came up over Tampa Wednesday morning, we didn't know who the next mayor would be.
Of a field of five, less than 20 percent of eligible voters threw half of their support behind former City Councilman Bob Buckhorn and fresh-off-the-County-Commission candidate Rose Ferlita.
"We start at zero again," said Ferlita, addressing questions between meetings and live media appearances.
"I think now the voters have separated the pack," said Buckhorn, standing in the ABC Action News Parking lot moments after ducking into a live truck for some quiet as he did a radio interview.
And now, with two veteran political figures pointed toward a March 22 run-off election, the lines in the sand are being drawn so that voters can make a choice between two people who have repeatedly told us that jobs and the economy and transportation are at the top of their hoped-for constituents to-do lists.
"They wanna be comfortable and confident that the person they put in there is gonna do everything as seriously as they want to do it," said Ferlita, bottom-lining her no-nonsense approach to hands on mayoral management.
Meanwhile, Buckhorn pointed to the specificity of his plans. "Platitudes are not platforms," he said. "Platitudes are not a road map to the future."
But as both candidates, who told us they're operating today on just 2-3 hours of sleep, look toward an immediate future filled with e-mails, blogs, tweets and other social media missives, they know they'll not stop until their messages are out and into the minds of the voters.
And despite their friendship, this is a keen competition.
"They want to know that the next mayor knows what he's doing," said Buckhorn, noticing his own use of the pronoun and not bothering to correct it.
"I wanna tell you what," said Ferlita. "He's gonna have to work really hard to beat us... and you know what? He won't be able to."
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