It was a close race to the end, but ultimate vote count was in Henderson’s favor, with 2,698 votes to opponent Barbara Banno’s 1,848. Total voter turnout in Gulfport was nearly double that of the 2013 mayoral contest, and more than half of Gulfport’s 8,753 registered voters, per the Supervisor of Elections recent data.
Despite bringing in over $16,000 fewer dollars than Banno, and spending a small fraction of what his opponent spent, Henderson prevailed, attributing to his win on Tuesday night to “positivity and hard work.”
“We didn’t have a great big campaign team this time; we didn’t have a ton of money this time; what we did have is a whole lot of people who care about this city,” Henderson said, addressing the crowd with a victory speech at Pia’s Trattoria Tuesday night. “The key to being a good part of the city … is being positive.”
Henderson’s campaign platform was based in continuing his work of the past three years, and said he believes it is important to keep the group of council members together.
“I want to keep doing what we’re doing,” Henderson said. “All the things that were already going well. We’re going to keep that train rolling.”
Henderson also cited “new cooperation” with the city of St. Petersburg as an incentive in his reelection.
“We’re going to get some great benefits out of all the things that went wrong,” Henderson said, referencing the Clam Bayou sewage dumping by the city of St. Petersburg last August, a point of contention in what, at times, was a highly contentious race.
The Banno campaign party kept mostly positive, however, despite being on the wrong end of the result.
“I have no regrets,” Banno said in a tearful concession speech at O’Maddy’s bar. “I will continue to be a community leader, and I will continue to fight.”
Banno also stated that she will be “absolutely” still active in local issues, but said that it was “too early” to decide where her political career will go.
“I can only hope the campaign I ran has pushed and challenged the current council and mayor to see that 42 percent of the vote believed in what I had to say and there’s value in that.”
In a much closer contest Tuesday night, Dan Liedtke was reelected as Gulfport’s Ward 1 councilmember.
Liedtke edged out his opponent April Thanos by only 63 votes, though that could be considered a mandate compared to Liedtke’s 9-vote margin in 2012.
“I’m happy, I’m glad we won,” Liedtke said. “I’m really thankful. I’m really looking forward to working with Sam for another couple of years and continuing the progress we started.”
Despite a stronger showing by Thanos supporters on election day, Liedtke accumulated more votes via absentee ballots, which was enough to put him over the top.
The final vote county was 2,214 to 2,151 in favor of the incumbent.
“It was close, and I feel good about that,” Thanos said. “Whenever there is a close race, I hope that the one who wins takes into account that a lot of people voted for me and take some of those ideas and implement them.”
When asked what was next for her, Thanos responded, “I’ll go back to my life. I’ll still be at council meetings and put in my input.”
South Pasadena Has New Mayor
In the South Pasadena mayor race, commissioner Max Elson took the prize, garnishing 70 percent of the votes cast.
Incumbent Dan Calabria received 600 votes while Elson took 1,395 votes to be elected the new mayor of South Pasadena.
Calabria could be reached by press time, however Elson responded to the victory by phone Wednesday morning saying, “I think it proves that it was just time to make a change. We have a lot to do.”
Look for an interview with new mayor Max Elson in an upcoming issue of the Gabber.