Howard Wiggs defeats Gow Field in race for Lakeland mayor
WFTS Staff , Ryan Raiche
9:46 PM, Nov 5, 2013
10:25 AM, Nov 6, 2013
LAKELAND, Fla. - The scandal-plagued city of Lakeland will soon have a new leader.
Voters went to the polls Tuesday casting enough ballots to unseat incumbent Mayor Gow Fields.
Wiggs received 52.35% of the vote, Fields 47.65%.
A majority of the campaign centered on the scandal involving Lakeland's Police Department.
Mayor Fields believes the city manager and police chief are the right leaders to help the city heal, while Wiggs wants both of them gone.
Wiggs restated his position Tuesday after the final results came in.
"I can not support the chief's leadership right now," he said. "I've heard from too many police officers and I believe we need a change in leadership."
Wiggs still wants City Manager Doug Thomas fired, but if the commission doesn't support his position, he said he has another plan to make him a better leader.
"The scandal has to be dealt with, and I've been thinking about that in hopes that I won," he said. "We're going to start dealing with that… we need to start solving this thing instead of just talking about it."
Around 9 o'clock Tuesday, Mayor Fields said he left a voicemail for Wiggs, congratulating him on his victory.
He told ABC Action News he's proud of the race he ran.
"We stayed positive and we stayed on message," Fields said. "There were people who counseled me that told me I need to go negative, to retaliate on some of the negative things that were being said but we chose not to do that because it was important for us to run a positive campaign and stay on the issues."
In October, the National Rifle Association brought gun control to the forefront of the hotly contested race.
The NRA singled out Fields because he joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and about 750 other mayors on a letter written to the president calling for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Based on a pledge the two candidates agreed to before the race, Fields believes Wiggs had a responsibility to call the NRA and try to get the ad taken down.
Wiggs has stated publicly he did not endorse or approve the ad, but said he doesn't believe it's his responsibility to take action.
Fields said Tuesday night the "untruthful attack ad" may have played a difference in the race.
"In the last couple weeks, that was a deciding issue for many people," he said.