By Jim Bleyer
Tampa City Council candidate Stephen Lytle, tipped that his multiple arrest record would be disclosed in the weeks leading to the March 5 primary, went into full damage control Monday.
Using the notorious pay-for-play blog Florida Politics as his outlet, the 36-year-old Lytle asserted he was “young and dumb” since his arrests for DUI, breaking and entering, grand theft, and an open container violation. The DUI charge was reduced to reckless driving.
Lytle’s multiple arrests are reminiscent of 2017 St. Petersburg City Council candidate Justin Bean who incurred several DUI’s. Like Lytle, he depicted his problems with the law as in the distant past.
Bean led an eight-candidate primary by a healthy 12 points but after Tampa Bay Beat made his arrest record public, his popularity plummeted and he was waxed by Gina Driscoll in the runoff.
Unlike Bean, Lytle does not have the luxury of being the top choice in the District 3, non-partisan council race. The registered Republican faces the popular former Councilman John Dingfelder, who was in office from 2003 through 2010, real estate agent Vibha Shevade, and businessman Nicholas Glover.
Dingfelder is deemed the clear, heavy favorite.
Payola king Florida Politics has spun five articles favorable to Lytle, a protégé of long-in-the-tooth City Councilman Charlie Miranda whose undistinguished record on the council spans decades.
The three Lytle arrests have been scrubbed from the website of Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, a Republican. Links bring up this:
Sorry, our systems are too busy to service your request.
Searches using Lytle’s name ended with the same result. We made several attempts over a 24-hour period.
It doesn’t matter. Lytle doesn’t deny his lawbreaking.
Lytle also served as a founding father and vice president of Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter at USF. Under his watch, TKE was suspended in 2005 for hazing, with one pledge having to be hospitalized. The frat, under probationary status, petitioned to be reinstated but didn’t meet the requirements.
Despite his rhetoric in the Florida Politics advertorial, Tampa Bay Beat maintains that under the patina of respectability that Lytle is attempting to create, he is actually older and dumber.
His first fundraising kickoff was at Hooters.
A Meet and Greet at The Patio followed. Attendees received their first drink free courtesy of the Lytle campaign.
Another Meet and Greet was held at Al.’s Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que. All food and drinks were advertised as complimentary.
Irish 31 Pub House and Eatery hosted Lytle’s next Meet and Greet. All attendees were offered a free draft beer or a glass of house wine.
You would think someone with a drinking problem that resulted in a criminal citation would be more cognizant of the consequences of free-flowing alcohol. None of Lytle’s email flyers offered free Uber or Lyft rides for guests feeling the slightest bit tipsy.
If Lytle felt compelled to lure potential donors with an incentive, light hors d’oeuvres would have been far more practical. Or he could have sought venues without a liquor license.
But that would require maturity and common sense.