Perhaps that was because of an alleged internal poll that showed Henriquez down by double digits to Storms approximately six weeks ago.
But Henriquez worked hard, and raised much more money than Storms, the controversial former Hillsborough County Commissioner who had never won countywide in Florida. The final tally: Henriquez 52 percent, Storms 43 percent. The Democrat wins.
Speaking to CL late Tuesday night, Henriquez was analytical in assessing how he did it.
"I really think we ran a really smart race. Our polling showed that it was very difficult for her to move the needle, beyond her name recognition and built-in advantages that she had. We put together a smart campaign and worked our butts off. We had a great team, we canvassed around the county, in areas that people wouldn't have expected us to go, and basically raised the resources necessary to build our name ID to the point that our message was a hiring decision worked."
Henriquez' main handicap was that he hadn't run for office in eight years since 2004, for his House seat in West Tampa. He had been out of office since 2006 after being term-limited.
A crucial endorsement came from the Tampa Bay Builders Association, and with that some Republican support. "We had a lot of Republican support," Henriquez said. "You look at what we did in South Tampa and throughout the county, we had Republican support and independent support. We knew that we needed that. It was an amazing ride, trust me, it was a lot of fun."
The race between Henriquez and Storms was relatively bloodless. Well, that is until the last weekend, when Henriquez sent out a mailer to independent voters that quoted Tampa Bay Times editorials ripping Storms for being a divisive figure.
Storms emailed CL when asked to comment about that mailer over the weekend, writing, "Sign stealing, push polling with nasty bashing, race baiting, and personal attacks too numerous to mention. Have I left anything out? In contrast, I have tacked pretty closely to the issues surrounding the office. On the bright side, all their polls must hold bad news for them, but my personnel file from the School District— which they requested— must contain good news about me else they would have attacked on both of those fronts, too."
Still, it's hard to believe that Ronda Storms is done with local politics.
Henriquez says he's humbled by his victory, and says he can't wait to take over the job that has been held by Rob Turner since 1996.