Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced Thursday morning that would forego running for Florida governor in 2018.
“I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018,” Buckhorn, 58, wrote in an email to supporters. “While I absolutely believe that the State of Florida needs a course correction and a new direction, the timing for me and my family would be a challenge. As the father of two daughters who are 15 and 11, the all consuming task of running for Governor would cause me to miss the milestones in their lives that I could never get back.”
For several years, it’s been a given that Buckhorn would try to take his brand of leadership to a new level by seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor.
Facing just token opposition in his re-election bid, Buckhorn won with nearly 96 percent of the vote, setting himself up perfectly for a presumptive run for higher office.
But, as Jeb Bush said after his failed presidential bid, stuff happens.
It began when the Tampa Bay Times reported that his police department, led by departing “rock star” Chief Jane Castor, had disproportionately cited black bicyclists at an alarming rate in comparison with the rest of the city’s general population. That led to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the TPD, with a report slated for the end of the year.
Then came a tough investigative report by WTSP Channel 10’s Noah Pransky in early September on the influence of Beth Leytham, one of the mayor’s closest advisers, including a video exchange between Pransky and the mayor that nobody would call one of Buckhorn’s finest moments. Then there was the lackluster fundraising for his political action committee, One Florida. This all led La Gaceta editor/publisher Patrick Mantegia to speculate that it appeared the Mayor had packed in the idea of running in 2018.
Still, Buckhorn continued to flirt with the idea of running. But as other candidates jumped into the race and Buckhorn not showing any signs of wanting to pursue a statewide bid, political observers like this blog declared that was “on the clock” and needed to make a decision.
In his email, Buckhorn made it clear he will finish his second term as Mayor of Tampa.
“For me, finishing Tampa’s next chapter is more important than starting mine. Absent extenuating circumstances, I intend to finish the job I was hired to do and prepare Tampa for the great things that are about to occur.”
Buckhorn is term-limited from seeking another term in City Hall.
Even with Buckhorn not entering the race, the Democratic primary remains crowded with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King already in the race. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine are also expected to run, while trial lawyer John Morgan is testing the waters on a potential bid.
In a statement, Graham saluted Buckhorn:
“Bob Buckhorn is an extraordinary leader who has transformed one of Florida’s and America’s great cities,” Graham said. “His successful service in Tampa shows what Florida can accomplish if we work together and focus on creating economic opportunity and improving quality of life for families. I am fortunate to call Bob a good friend and look forward to his continued leadership in the Tampa Bay region and all of Florida.”
Here is the full text of Buckhorn’s statement:
I can not tell you how honored I have been by the hundreds of people who have encouraged me to run for Governor. Your kind words and offers of support inspired me throughout this process and I am forever grateful for your willingness to join me on this journey.
That being said, I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018. While I absolutely believe that the State of Florida needs a course correction and a new direction, the timing for me and my family would be a challenge. As the father of two daughters who are 15 and 11, the all consuming task of running for Governor would cause me to miss the milestones in their lives that I could never get back.
Furthermore, I have a job that I love. A job unlike many jobs in politics requires that I show up and do what I was hired to do. As the CEO of 4400 great city employees, we are focused on furthering the amazing transformation of Tampa that has occurred over the last 6 years. It is a job that I trained for, aspired to and am eternally grateful to the citizens of Tampa who gave me this opportunity.
For me, finishing Tampa’s next chapter is more important than starting mine. Absent extenuating circumstances, I intend to finish the job I was hired to do and prepare Tampa for the great things that are about to occur.
I am confident that there will be a number of good candidates on the Democratic side that can speak to the hopes and aspirations of our fellow Floridians. This is a pivotal election for our state and I stand ready to lend my voice to those who would articulate a message that would unite us as a state behind a common vision that ensures that we leave Florida to our children, not a state of diminished possibilities, but a state of unlimited opportunities.
Reporter Mitch Perry contributed to this story.