The stakes seemed disproportionately high on Thursday when it took the Tampa City Council some 14 votes before ultimately Mike Suarez edged out Frank Reddick 4-3, to become the new chair.
During those 13 earlier votes, Reddick, Suarez and Harry Cohen remained in contention, with none getting the majority of four votes until Cohen ultimately excepted being elected as chair pro tem, easing the way for a one-on-one matchup.
Speculation was rife that with Mayor Bob Buckhorn possibly considering a state run effort in 2018, the council chair position would be a valuable prize for someone with mayoral ambitions. The city charter states that if Buckhorn were to step down 15 months before the 2019 election, the council chair would serve as the mayor until that election.
But the council votes again next year for a chair, meaning Thursday’s vote really wasn’t that significant in that respect. However, speculation has also centered on the mayor possibly getting appointed to a Cabinet position if his candidate, Hillary Clinton, is elected this fall.
Buckhorn has campaigned hard for Clinton this year in the Democratic presidential primary contest. He waited out a four-hour weather delay on a Friday night in February to travel to New Hampshire and knock on doors for her the weekend before the first in the nation’s primary (It didn’t help, as she lost by 20 points). He was the featured speaker when the Clinton camp opened up a campaign office at the Cuban Club in Ybor City, and flew up from a vacation day in Miami to introduce her to an adoring audience at the Ritz Ybor last month, in her sole Tampa campaign appearance of the season.
That’s led to increased speculation that if the former New York senator and secretary of state wins out this November, there’s the possibility that a job offer in Washington could be a reward for his efforts.
“I mean, obviously if the president asks you, you would consider,” the Tampa Mayor acknowledged last Sunday, before stressing that’s not been his motivation.
“That’s not what I’m doing this,” he said of his campaign efforts. “I’m helping her because she’s a friend. I want her to win. I think she’s head and shoulders the best candidate.”
Since being elected to a second four-year term a year ago, Buckhorn and Tampa residents have lived with the expectations that he may not fulfill all four years of his deal with Tampa voters . That’s because of the speculation of that gubernatorial run in 2018.
That conversation cooled a bit last summer, after the mayor had a contentious battle with the City Council regarding the police citizens review board. Coupled with the fact that there hasn’t been much activity with his One Florida political committee, and the thinking among some City Hall observers is that Buckhorn has given up that dream.
But that doesn’t appear to be the case. On Thursday, the mayor said that he will take the next six months to test his message across the state before making a determination regarding about a statewide run, according to The Tampa Tribune.
But would he leave office with two years to go, which would be the case if a President Clinton came calling?
“I would,” he says, before quickly adding, “I have no plans on doing that.”
“I haven’t been asked,” he added. “I haven’t anticipated being asked. The best thing I can do for her is to be a great mayor.”
Depending on who ultimately becomes the Republican presidential nominee, Florida will undoubtedly once again become one of the most fiercely contested states in the general election. And Buckhorn predicted last month that the election could come down to how Hillsborough County decides in November.
“This is where presidents get picked,” he told a crowd of nearly 100 people who gathered at the Cuban Club for the Clinton campaign office opening last month. “Right here in Ybor City. Right here in Tampa. Right here in the I-4 corridor. And once again, we will be battling house by house, voter by voter, to win this election.”