The next election in Tampa isn't for nearly a year, yet Guido Maniscalco isn't taking any chances that he's not going to be successful this time around. That why the West Tampa native announced back in January that he's officially running for office in 2015, and kicked off his campaign last Sunday afternoon with a $5 spaghetti fundraiser to begin his grassroots effort.
The 29-year-old Maniscalco is running for the District 6 seat that Council Chair Charlie Miranda will be term-limited out of next spring. It encompasses West Tampa, Seminole Heights, and the Westshore area near Tampa International Airport.
"We want to show real community support," Maniscalco says. "Because the people who come here today are people who live in the district. They vote. They’re around the neighborhood, and that’s how you win. Grassroots, you go door to door, and that’s how you win."
Maniscalco lost out to Mike Suarez in the battle for the District 1 citywide seat back in 2011, but he's been doing lots since then to keep his public profile high, serving as president of the MacFarlane Park Neighborhood Association, as well as on both the city's Code Enforcement Board and Tampa-Hillsborough County Human Rights.
He's also the proprietor of Guido Maniscalco Vintage Timepieces in West Tampa, a family business that will be celebrating its 40th birthday this fall.
During the 2011 campaign, one of the burning issues was a ban on panhandling. Ultimately, the City Council banned the practice for six days a week, with an exception for newspaper hawkers. Three years later, Maniscalco said such an emphasis didn't do anything to address the core issue, and that such panhandling laws are a way to sweep the program under rug. "That's not a long-term solution in solving the homeless issue in Hillsborough County."
On another issue, last week the City Council narrowly rejected approving an extension of a contract with ATS, the Arizona-based vendor running the city's red-light cameras. Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he'll work with the Council to try to get at least one member to reverse his or her vote and continue using the cameras.
Maniscalco is against them.
"I understand that it’s a public safety thing where people think twice — and I think twice," he admits, adding that he's "paranoid" at certain intersections, such as crossing the bridge on Kennedy Boulevard going west into downtown, concerned that if he hits the brakes on a yellow light he's going to get slammed from the rear. And yes, count him among those who believe it's a great way to raise revenue. "It might not be a lot to some people," he says of the $158 fine for getting busted, but says it certainly is for working people, especially single parents.
Although Council races are nonpartisan, Maniscalco has changed party affiliation from when he ran four years ago as a Republican. He says the GOP's stances on immigration and same-sex marriages have driven him away. "People are people," he says. "Everybody should be treated with equal respect, and I didn't see that from the Republican Party."
Since CL spoke with Maniscalco last weekend, he's already picked up a new challenger in the District 6 campaign: engineer and business owner, Jackie Toledo. Tommy Castellano, who ran for the Republican nomination for Congress in 2010 in what is now CD14, announced his candidacy back in October.