Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is endorsing Luis Viera in the race to represent District 7 on the City Council.
The mayor had remained silent through much of the campaign, but recent comments by Vierra’s opponent, Jim Davison, regarding the possibility of New Tampa seceding from the rest of the city has prompted the mayor to weigh in.
“The more I’ve paid attention to this race, the more it became clear that one candidate had the temperament to work with fellow council members and my office, and the other was more interested in provoking division within our city,” said Buckhorn. “I will not let stand unchallenged a callous suggestion of secession as being of any benefit to the City of Tampa.”
News of the Buckhorn endorsement first came Wednesday night from political consultant Gregory Wilson, who mentioned it near the end of a debate held in Forest Hills between the two candidates.
At a debate Tuesday night, Davison said that while he is not promoting the idea of New Tampa seceding from the rest of the city, he also wouldn’t take the issue off the table when negotiating for more services for the district.
Viera labeled the notion the equivalent of “birtherism,” and doubled down at a forum on Wednesday, saying that, “the next thing you know, we’re going to hear Jim say, ‘Hey, listen. I’m going to build a wall and make South Tampa pay for it.” Davison strongly objected to that comment.
The two men were part of an original field of six candidates who ran this year to fulfill the remaining two-and-a-half years in the seat that had been occupied by Lisa Montelione until October, when she had to step down as she ran for a state legislative seat.
Davison received the most votes of anyone in the Nov. 8 election with 31 percent, while Viera came in second with 22 percent. A poll taken last week showed Davison maintaining a single-digit lead.
Whether Buckhorn’s endorsement will move votes remains in question, but Davison has been working an anti-establishment stance that the district gets little love from downtown, and the rejection seems to be playing into the theme of his campaign.
“Luis Viera’s campaign and supporters have stupped [sic] to sending out false information,” Davison said in a statement on Thursday. “This is how he works, creating a divide between the people and being divisive. Dr. Davison never said he was for secession from the city of Tampa. On the contrary he felt it was his duty to bring back the taxes to fix our issues in District 7.”
Davison also tweeted out a statement saying that the mayor has never cared about New Tampa until the S-word surfaced in this campaign, writing, “Just the word secession gets Buckhorn’s attention for the first time in six years.”
— Jim Davison (@VoteDavison2016) December 1, 2016
“District 7 is an unusually diverse group of neighborhoods that have very different needs and unique challenges,” Buckhorn said in his statement.“The next City Council member there must be able to listen carefully, weigh differences, and work to serve the greater good. I believe Luis Viera is best prepared for that job.”