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Mitch Perry Report for 6.3.15 — Could rising crime become a political issue in 2015?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

At Rick Scott’s cattle call in Orlando yesterday (I refuse to call it the Happiest Place on the Earth), the six (potential) presidential candidates were told by the governor to stick to the economy, so the only time they could speak about other issues was generally if they came before reporters after their session on stage.

But as news from the Tampa Police Department continued to trickle in on 14-year-old Edward Harris’ death on Sunday, I began to contemplate the possibility that rising crime might become an issue in the 2016 race.

Hear me out on this: Just as the GOP is continued to be in a slump when it comes to winning presidential elections over the past two decades, the Democrats were in exactly that same funk back in the ’70s and ’80s, and crime was considered one of the reasons why the party was considered out of step with the American public.

We all remember the Willie Horton ad during the 1988 Michael Dukakis-George H.W. Bush race. It seemed to be the nadir of white fears of black crime.

But since then, crime has been on a downswing for close to two decades. But there are disturbing trends over the last year or so.

In Tampa, Harris’ murder was the 18th homicide so far in 2015. A New Tampa man was found shot and killed yesterday as well, the 19th such murder in the city. That’s nearly double from this time last year.

In The Wall Street Journal over the weekend, Heather McDonald noted that murders are also up this year in Milwaukee, Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis and other major U.S. cities. While those statistics are unassailable, her theory about why crime is up is certainly more suspect, as she says it’s because of the protests against police departments over the past nine months.

Some of the violence was up well before people ever heard of Michael Brown or Ferguson, Mo. But we’ve seen how the issue of police violence against black men has triggered a fierce pushback in Manhattan.

Could this become political? Most people on all sides of the issue respect police and think that there are just a few “bad actors” responsible for some of the hideous events we’ve seen on video in the past few months, but it will be interesting to see if the numbers continue to rise. So might the rhetoric from some of the Republican candidates.

In other news…

We were in Lake Buena Vista yesterday.

Jeb Bush closed the show out by reminiscing about how great Florida was when he led the state, and insisted that if he were to run for president (wink, wink), he wouldn’t be tearing down any other Republicans in the race.

Chris Christie said only political candidates who talk about the 71 percent of the government budget that is devoted to entitlements should be taken seriously for president. Guess what? Christie spent considerable time yesterday talking about doing something about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Rick Perry is going to announce his candidacy for president tomorrow. The former Texas governor reigned over the Lone Star state when it led the nation in job creation, something he mentioned at length on Tuesday, and will undoubtedly repeat throughout this year’s campaign cycle.

Mike Huckabee made some news about a dubious remark yesterday, but before that leaked, he spent a lot of time talking about the “fair tax,” a plan that would get rid of all federal taxes and replace it with a consumption tax on retail sales. It’s an intriguing idea that has gone nowhere over the past couple of decades in Washington.

Scott Walker talked a lot about the many times he’s been in Florida in his life. He also rejected the idea (that he put out last week) that he may not compete in the Sunshine State in next March’s GOP presidential primary.

Marco Rubio opened the show up with a relatively bland, five-minute video presentation from Washington, where he was stuck actually having to do his job and vote on some NSA legislation instead of running for president.

The only candidate we missed writing up was Bobby Jindal. Apologies to fans of the Louisiana governor.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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