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Bob Buckhorn says after Donald Trump, voters may not be interested in a ‘guy like him’

On Thursday, Bob Buckhorn explained why he chose not to pursue the Democratic nomination for Florida governor in 2018.

The Tampa mayor’s decision was mainly predicated on two factors: He did not want to be away as his 15-year-old daughter spends her last few years at home, and he loves being Mayor of Tampa more than he could imagine running for statewide office for the next 18 months.

But lurking below that was a realization; if he ran, Florida voters may not be interested in buying what he would be selling next year.

“I would have been running on the fact that I was qualified, that I had managed large institutions, that we had a track record of accomplishments, that we were not particularly partisan, but I don’t know if that really matters anymore,” the mayor told reporters gathered at City Hall Thursday morning.

“I don’t know what the American public is looking for in their elected leadership. It is a disconcerting time in our country, and for those of us who aspire to lead, it’s the most unusual time that I’ve seen in 30 years.”

Of course, Buckhorn was referring to the electoral earthquake leading to Donald Trump winning the presidency last fall over Hillary Clinton, the woman he campaigned hard for both in and outside Florida.

Although the mayor’s decision was expected, over the past few years, his trajectory about being a candidate had evolved.

Based on his successful leadership leading Tampa out of the Great Recession in the last decade — as well as his outsized personality — Buckhorn was a prominent part of the Democratic bench of candidates for statewide office, and had been for several years.

That speculation went into overdrive after he created his own political action committee (One Florida) in December 2014.

And while he won a huge re-election victory in 2015, the rest of the year was troubled, partly due to a negative newspaper report about the Tampa Police Department, which triggered the progressive activist community, demanding the city create a citizen’s review board. It was a proposal Buckhorn initially resisted.

As funding for his PAC began to dry up in 2016, Buckhorn’s gubernatorial aspirations resurfaced locally after he gave a fiery speech this summer to the Florida delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Buckhorn admitted Thursday his thinking about a run for governor “ebbed and flowed” over the past couple of years, something he said was probably the case with all the rumored candidates, except for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, “who has obviously been committed to this from day one.”

“For me this was not an easy choice,” Buckhorn said. “It was not a straight path. There were a lot of things that I have to deal with that a lot of the other candidates don’t.” He specifically mentioned his two teenage daughters and a full-time job as mayor in the Florida’s biggest media market.

“But at the end of the day, family being first, I just didn’t want the job as bad as I wanted to be the mayor,” he said. “And even though I recognize that two years from now I won’t be the mayor, I’m going to finish strong.”

Buckhorn has more than two years left on the job, which is why he was hardly in the mood to get too retrospective about his legacy. While he championed his role in leading what he called “the Tampa Renaissance,” he drew a blank when asked to acknowledge his greatest failing to date, saying only that whatever mistakes he’s made along the way were “not done with malice or ill intent.”

Buckhorn certainly has the ambition to be governor, and he believes it’s vital for a “regime change” in Tallahassee after two decades of Republican rule in both the Governor’s mansion and the state Legislature.

Speculation has been that while a run for governor wasn’t in the cards, Buckhorn could run for chief financial officer, a job with duties that would allow him more time to return to Tampa on a weekly basis. But he said that decision was always about whether to commit for a run for the top spot in state government, not another Cabinet position. That said, he won’t pursue a run for that office.

A disciple of the 1980s Democratic Leadership Council — the same one that spawned Bill Clinton — Buckhorn’s centrism was always an issue for progressives in Tampa and the state.

With other centrist Democrats like Alex Sink, Patrick Murphy and Charlie Crist losing statewide elections in recent years, there is a part of the party that wants to go further left in 2018.

Buckhorn acknowledges that is a fervent part of the base right now, but he insists that’s not the way to go.

“If we continue to run campaigns based on identity politics or cobbling together interest groups, we’re going to lose,” he said flatly. “We’re a Purple state, and my sense is, and I could be wrong, and certainly the party seems to be heading in a different direction than my governing style, is that if we can’t appeal to the middle, we’re never going to be successful in this state.”

The mayor’s most interested in seeing how other Democrats in the race will fare over the course of the next year and a half. He said that the success of Trump does pave a possible path for attorney and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan as a viable wild card in 2018.

“He could potentially be the Democrats Donald Trump in terms of style and his willingness to shake up political and conventional wisdom, ” Buckhorn mused. “I just don’t know what the voters are looking for. I always thought that experience matters, and that credibility matters, and competence matters and a proven track record matters, but I just don’t know anymore.

“Time will tell, as the country rights itself, if a style of a Donald Trump is what Americans are looking for. If that’s the case, a guy like me, you know, they’re not going to be interested.”

Joe Henderson: Bob Buckhorn made the right call not to run for Governor

Bob Buckhorn is a gregarious, ambitious and determined man, and I think he would have made a fine governor for the state of Florida. He certainly ranks among the best mayors the city of Tampa has ever had.

But I also believe he made the right call when he announced in an email to supporters Thursday morning that “I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018.”

Now, saying “I am not planning …” does leave a little wiggle room in case Democrats come storming to his door, but that is not likely to happen. There could be several viable options for Dems in 2018, including Orlando attorney John Morgan, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

But Buckhorn wasn’t kidding in that email when he said, “I have a job I love.” In his case, that was not the usual politician-speak for “I’ve sized up the field and decided I have no chance.”

Tampa has had some fine mayors dating back more than 40 years — people like Dick Greco, Bill Poe, Sandy Freedman, Bob Martinez, Pam Iorio — and none of them wanted the job more than Buckhorn. He loved saying that Tampa had its “swagger” back. Trust me on this; no one has more swagger than he does.

And Buckhorn came along at the right time, too. When he assumed office in 2011, the city’s knees were buckling from the Great Recession (Iorio deserves credit for how she guided Tampa during that time). But Buckhorn moved ahead with an ambitious plan to reshape downtown from a dead place where the streets didn’t wait until 5 p.m. to roll up.

There are so many things going on now that the biggest downtown problem is a lack of parking.

That’s not to say the mayor hasn’t had issues. Not everyone approved of the military-style security Buckhorn championed that turned downtown into a fenced-off encampment during the 2012 Republican National Convention. And when Buckhorn decides he wants something, he tends to bulldoze any opposition that raises a peep of protest.

He didn’t make a lot of friends in the African-American community, either, when a Tampa Bay Times report about the disproportionate number of black bicyclists stopped by local police led to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. Buckhorn defiantly supported the police on that issue.

When you’re in a job like this one, though, you’ll be judged on your overall score. On his watch, the long process of building Tampa’s Riverwalk finally went from concept to reality. It already is the signature landmark in the city.

He streamlined much of the bureaucracy on things like the permitting process. That helped speed his vision for transforming downtown into an urban dwelling center rather than just a place where people went to work.

He once famously quipped that infrastructure was the most important thing for city mayors, so while things like new firehouses and stormwater drainage improvements didn’t make headlines, those projects did make life better for citizens. He has been a champion for public spaces, and the Water Works park on the north side of downtown is a jewel.

He was an out-front supporter of Hillary Clinton for president, so there was speculation that he would have been off to Washington had she won. We’ll never know that for sure, just as we’ll never know if as governor he could have successfully worked with what likely will remain a Republican legislative majority in Tallahassee.

Here is what we can say, though. This decision not to run clears a lot of things off his plate and allows him to concentrate on the city he loves. I would imagine development on the west side of the Hillsborough River will be one of his priorities in the two years he has left in office.

And barring something unforeseen that can’t be controlled, he will hand the next mayor a city that has changed for the better. Not a bad legacy, eh?

The political class react to Bob Buckhorn’s decision not to run for Governor

Bob Buckhorn’s decision not to run for Governor is eliciting plenty of reaction in Tampa. Many people say they are not surprised Buckhorn has chosen not to pursue a path to the top political job in Florida.

“Am I the only one who felt he wasn’t heading in that direction?” asked City Councilwoman Yolie Capin.

“I truly believe that he made the right decision because he has not demonstrated over the past six months that he had a keen interest in running for governor,” said Councilman Frank Reddick.

Alluding to the fact that he has done little over the past year to travel around the state to get to know Democrats like potential candidates Gwen Graham and Philip Levine, Reddick said: “I think his chances of winning would have been very, very slim. So I think he did the right thing to wait this out.”

“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,” the Mayor said in his statement issued out shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday. “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.”

“Although I’m not surprised, I’m a little sad that we won’t have a representative from Tampa running for Governor,” said Councilman Mike Suarez. “I would have loved to have seen him go out and talk about the vision that he’s been able to put together in Tampa for the rest of the state.”

“I think that Mayor Buckhorn should be commended for putting the interests of his family and the City of Tampa first,” said Councilman Harry Cohen. “Being Mayor is more than a full-time job, and the continued success of much of what is happening in Tampa right now depends on having a strong and totally focused Mayor.”

“Bob Buckhorn is an extraordinary leader who has transformed one of Florida’s and America’s great cities,” Graham said in a statement. “His successful service in Tampa shows what Florida can accomplish if we work together and focus on creating economic opportunity and improving the quality of life for families.

“As a Tampa native, I’m incredibly thankful for his vision and leadership,” says Democratic operative Ana Cruz, a close Buckhorn ally.

A former official with the Florida Democratic Party, Cruz appeared wistful that Buckhorn will not be making a run for governor next year.

“Mayor Buckhorn has transformed our city, led with integrity and is exactly what we need in Tallahassee,” she said. “Bob Buckhorn will always be my favorite pick for Governor.”

“He would have been a strong candidate and a great governor, but can’t blame my friend Bob for putting his family and Tampa first,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
“The withdrawal of Bob Buckhorn leaves the democrats without a critical I-4  corridor candiates who has won an election,” said St. Petersburg political strategist Barry Edwards. “The I-4 cooridor is critical to the success of a democratic nominee in a general elction and this further errodes democrats pathways back to power.”

“His legacy will be that of a truly great man who loved Tampa and elevated our city to the national stage,” said Tampa state Senate Republican Dana Young. “Although he will not run for Governor, Bob Buckhorn is not going away by any stretch — except him to be a major player for years to come.”

Reddick said the same thing about the mayor, who will turn 59 in July.

“He’s still a young man, and he got a great future ahead of him if the timing is right for him, and that could be in another four years.”

The mayor himself had a news conference later on Thursday morning, which you can read all about here.

Email Insights: Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2M in February

The political committee backing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says it raised more than $2 million in February, bring total contributions to more than $9 million.

In an email  to supporters from Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, said the committee raised more than $2.25 million in February 2017. Hollis said that one-month fundraising haul brought total contributions to the committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s 2018 campaign, to more than $9.4 million.

“Support for Adam’s Florida Grown PC is not only evident through fundraising, however, it’s also seen on social media platforms,” wrote Hollis. “More than 170,000 people follow Adam on Facebook, while Phil Levine has just 44,000, Bob Buckhorn has just 17,000, Gwen Graham has just 13,000 followers and the newly announced gubernatorial candidate from the Capital City Andrew Gillum has just under 17,000.”

Gillum formally announced his 2018 bid Wednesday; while Levine and Graham have both indicated they are mulling a bid. Buckhorn is also believed to be considering a run.

Putnam is expected to run in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering a run.

Hollis went on to say that behind the scenes, the Florida Grown team is “working hard, traveling the state and building relationships.”

Fear grips Latino communities in Florida as deportations increase

here is palpable fear amongst the undocumented community after the Department of Homeland Security issued new memos that gives U.S. officials sweeping latitude to target “removable aliens” for deportation, effectively making most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. priority targets.

Under Barack Obama, immigration officials were told to focus on convicted criminals instead of the broader undocumented population. The memos issued out this week by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly instruct agents to also prioritize undocumented immigrants who have been charged with a crime but not convicted of it, or committed an act that may be criminal offenses but haven’t been charged for it. Those categories mean that almost any brush with the American law-enforcement system could make an undocumented immigrant a target for removal.

“I’m very, very afraid,” says a St.Petersburg housekeeper who only wanted to be identified by her first name of Melissa.

A Brazilian native who has duel citizenship with Portugal, Melissa came to the U.S. last year with her Portuguese passport but has stayed past the three months she was legally able to. She keeps her two-year-old daughter in day care, and says she is terrified that if she gets picked up by local police she may never see her again.

“I’ll never call for some help, if I need the police here,” she says. “I’ll never call anyone to help me.”

There are approximately 610,000 undocumented people in Florida, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Daniel Barajas is the executive director with the Young American Dreamers, based in Auburndale. His organization has been hosting community forums this week, teaching the undocumented what to do if they’re confronted by immigration officers.

“We’re just trying to reassure the community by giving them the confidence in the means of learning their rights and keeping them organize, so when there’s actions where mobilizing the community would be strategic, we could do so,” he says.

Left untouched in the DHS directives is anything to do with DACA, an executive order imposed by President Obama  that provides 750,000 young undocumented immigrations a means to work and live in the U.S.

“We’re gonna show great heart,” Trump said in a news conference last week. “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you.”

“It’s not a security blanket, even though I do feel like I have a path to citizenship,” says Tampa resident Andrea Seabra, who is part of the DACA program. “It is what it is today, and I just hope every day that things get better.”

While big city mayors like Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman say that they will make sure that their police departments don’t go out of their way to detain undocumented immigrants, Edwin Enciso with Justicia Now says that isn’t the case in many other parts of Florida.

“The problem is that about 40 percent of the udocumented community live in rural counties and have sheriffs who have a history of cooperating with federal agents in this way, and so in those areas the undocumented community, especially farm workers, are more vulnerable,” he says.

Those sheriffs would include Polk County’s Grady Judd, who said at a news conference earlier this week that “our primary goal has got to be to get the illegal aliens committing felonies out of this country and keep them out.”

After the new directives were announced by DHS this week, Orlando area Democratic U.S. Representative Darren Soto held an emergency roundtable discussion, where he learned that students in Auburndale had been questioned by local school administrators about their immigration status. “Given the recent executive action and heated rhetoric on immigration, these unauthorized inquiries are deeply troubling to me and our constituents,” Soto said in a letter sent to Judd, Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings, Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson and more than 20 school board members.

“What we find disturbing is that he hasn’t even found time to sit down with the Hispanic community to discuss what their concerns are,” said Barajas of Judd, who he has worked with in the past. Barajas said DHS’ orders affects more than just the undocumented, since there are many Hispanic families with “mixed status,” that is, with some family members who are documented, others who aren’t or who have those who are on DACA.

Most Americans believe that cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes should be required to turn them over to federal authorities.

A survey from Harvard–Harris Poll published by the The Hill this week found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting to federal agents the illegal immigrants they come into contact with.

Seabra says she wonders whether President Trump has ever had the chance to sit down with DACA students or farm workers, and says such a meeting could have an impact on his viewpoint.

“I feel he was actually exposed to people that work for him, the people who clean his bathrooms, the people that built his building, maybe he’ll understand that we’re not here to destroy his country, but to make it better.”

 

City of Tampa to host public meetings regarding potential expansion of streetcar

The city of Tampa and the Florida Dept. of Transportation are currently conducting a $1.6 million study to explore the idea of expanding the Tampa Historic Streetcar, a system that has previously been considered something of a white elephant since it began operating 15 years ago.

As part of that study, city officials will hold the first of three public meetings next month to get input from the community.

With no prospects for any new sources of funding to pay for transit on the horizon, FDOT announced in 2015 that they would conduct the study in conjunction with the city of Tampa, evaluating the potential extension of the streetcar system from its current western terminus at Whiting and Franklin Street in downtown, up through to the Marion Transit Center and potentially to Tampa Heights.

The first meeting with the public will take place on Tuesday, March 7 at the Tampa Bay History Museum from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. City officials are calling it a “community brainstorm session” where residents will hear about the planning process and then provide input back to the planning team about the purpose of the project and about the needs of the downtown Tampa community for transportation options.

“Our urban core demands more transportation options. The streetcar system is an underutilized asset and we are taking a hard look at its future. A potential extension of the system through downtown could open up connections to new neighborhoods, jobs, and entertainment.,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “The goal of this planning process is to take the first step towards creating another viable transportation choice for Tampa.”

Other meetings are scheduled for April 4 and May 2. The first phase of the study is expected to be completed early this summer.  If the results of the feasibility analysis are positive, a second phase will be initiated to select a preferred alternative and refine plans and strategies.

The $2.7 million Historic Streetcar system opened in 2002 and has struggled ever since to build ridership. Part of the problem some official said is the lack of frequency of routes. Traditionally the service doesn’t begin until 11 a.m. , but there is a pilot project that has been ongoing for months experimenting with beginning service at 7 a.m.

Mike Suarez sounds like he’s running for higher office during speech to Hillsborough Democrats

In what could be a preview of things to come, Tampa City Council Chairman Mike Suarez promoted his prescriptions for a progressive city during a speech to the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Council.

The mood were notably different than the last time Suarez addressed the DEC in the same venue. In early December, he and several of his City Council colleagues were denied the opportunity to vote in the local party’s reorganization meeting, which led to Suarez angrily taking to the floor to defend his bona fides as a Democrat.

All of that was forgiven Monday night, however, as Suarez owned the floor in his ten minute address.

Beginning by discussing how he had recently participated in a meeting with organized labor, he quickly segued into referring to his own proposal that the council passed in 2015 that calls for all new contracts with Community Redevelopment Agencies to require that twenty percent of jobs are fulfilled by apprentices.

“What has happened over the past year, and what has happened in last November’s election, is that we need to make sure to get as many folks as ready and able to work, because right now having small minimum jobs are not enough to carry us over. We need more high paying living wage jobs and until we have that, we’re not going to get out of the hole that we’re in,” he said.

Suarez then switched on a dime to talking about the Council’s upcoming vote on an ordinance that would ban mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors. The issue was workshopped last week and will come back for a vote on March 2.

“How many people here who are gay, and have converted to something else?” he asked the crowd. “If you are born gay, you’re gay. If you’re born straight, you are straight. If you are someone who wants to covert for whatever reason, that is your prerogative as a human being, and your human rights should not be denied, because someone is going to tell you that you have a psychological problem, when in fact, you were born the way that you were.”

The proposal is opposed by conservative activist Terry Kemple, who vows that the city will be subjected to a lawsuit if it passes. Others, including a Democrat in the audience Monday night who said it wasn’t a psychiatric issue, have questioned the need for such policies. Nevertheless, the all Democratic City Council appears determine to pass the proposal.

“We’re not going to stand for it in this city,” Suarez continued. “We are about uplifting people. We are not about degrading people. We are about making sure of promoting people who want to be the best person that they possibly can be for them, for the city. Everyone knows we are a progressive city, a city that looks forward and doesn’t look back.”

He then talked about immigration and sanctuary cities, saying that the city of Tampa wasn’t going to do anything that make immigrants feel unwelcome.

Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would strip federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities. Bob Buckhorn has said repeatedly that while detaining undocumented immigrants is a function of Hillsborough County and not the city of Tampa, he will not direct members of the Tampa Police Department to help Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) to round up the undocumented. Suarez used the opportunity to bash Republicans, who he said were hypocritical in not standing up for local control.

“I know that what Republicans love to talk about is like to talk about unfunded mandates – don’t put a burden from the federal government onto the  cities and states,” he said. “Let me just tell you something, when they say ICE is going to have to use our police force or our sheriff deputies or our jails in order to capture people who they believe should be sent back to their country of origin, that is an unfunded mandate, and let me tell you, we won’t stand for that here in the city of Tampa,” eliciting another whopping round of applause.

“We want to make sure that our police force, those men and women who work hard for the city of Tampa, have the tools necessary to fight crime and catch criminals, and not to worry about whether or not someone has an expired tag or a license that’s been expired who may be from another country. To me, that is unconscionable.”

Suarez used that same adjective to describe the Florida Legislature’s reluctance to support a proposal backed by Buckhorn, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and plenty of others in the Tampa Bay area at least that would change state law to allow large cities to hold their own tax referendums. Current Florida only allows counties to have that authority. It’s an issue that has been discussed for several years now, as those cities have shown much larger support for public transit referendums than in the surrounding counties.

However, whether anybody locally is pushing Florida lawmakers to pass such a law isn’t clear just weeks before the regular legislative session commences. Nevertheless, it’s another talking point that Democrats have maintained over the past year on the campaign trail.

“We have a Republican legislature that loves to talk about freedom, they love to talk about what’s right for you and your home, but they refuse to let you have the freedom to vote for your own transit needs, and to me, that is wrong,” Suarez said.

Suarez is one of more than half a dozen serious names being discussed as a potential mayoral candidate in Tampa two years from now, when Buckhorn is term limited out of office.  He has never indicated that he isn’t interested in the position, and his short speech on Monday night seemed if anything a preview of the message he might carry when that campaign gets serious, which won’t really happen until after the 2018 midterm elections.

Hillsborough Co. Commission to explore paid parental leave for full-time employees

Following the recent move by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other municipalities around the state and the country, the Hillsborough County Commission unanimously voted on Wednesday to explore the possibility of providing paid parental leave to its more than 5,000 full-time employees.

The idea was proposed by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who said passing such a measure will give a clear message to county employees and millennials that, “You can come to work for government and have a great job, and your benefits will also be in line with the job that you are seeking.”

“We should be a leader on the parental leave issue and doing what we can for employees of the county and for quality of life,” added Pat Kemp, the only other female on the board.

Commissioners Stacy White and Ken Hagan requested for County Administrator Mike Merrill to study what the costs would be to the county and how that it would compare to similar local governments and private companies of similar size.

Two weeks ago, Buckhorn announced a new policy for city of Tampa employees that will provide primary caregivers with eight weeks and secondary caregivers with two weeks of paid leave after the birth of a new child or placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.

Commissioner Victor Crist, who recently became a new father, said it was important to not only look at the financial need such a policy, but also the psychological aspects of it.

“If a family member with a new child returns back to work before that child is really prepared for that family member to leave the household, there is a huge psychological impact, and that affects productivity,” Crist said.

Murman agree, saying the current county policy of having only one week of paid leave off for a primary caregiver can undoubtedly create anxiety. “We all know that the first months are the most nurturing months for a young mother, a young father with their new baby or adopted baby.”

“It’s not seen on a piece of paper as a finite, but it’s absolutely part of the equation,” Murman added. “They shouldn’t have to decide between working because they can’t afford to take the time off, or taking care of their baby.”

In St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced a paid family leave policy giving primary caregivers six weeks off in back in 2014. A similar policy was approved in Miami Beach last fall.

Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council voted to expand their previous family leave policy for city employees, going from four weeks to 12 weeks, as well as creating a new four-week family leave policy for employees who need to care for sick family members.

Three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — have paid family leave policies in place, while 18 other states are considering similar measures.

Bob Buckhorn tells radio show he won’t “round up” Syrians living in Tampa

Bob Buckhorn’s visit to a Tampa mosque earlier this month to show solidarity with the Islamic community seemed to be a rather non-controversial event, but not to the morning hosts at WFLA-970 AM radio on Monday.

Buckhorn’s visit to the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay came exactly a week after President Trump signed an executive order banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. The ruling was overturned last week by the U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals.

“I thought that ban on those seven countries was an attack on Islam, and I can tell you, Teddy, when I was at that mosque, on two occasions there were grown men who came up to me who were in tears,” Buckhorn told AM Tampa Bay host Tedd Webb.

Webb then went on to ask Buckhorn if there were people at the mosque who came from one of those seven countries that Trump named on his executive order (Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Yemen), “You wouldn’t do a thing to round them up?”

“Not unless they had done something wrong,” Buckhorn replied, adding that it was important to screen refugees adequately and have control of our borders, “but that’s not the majority of people who immigrate to this country. It hasn’t been that way for generations. So, no, if they just happen to be from Syria, no I would not round them up. They’re not guilty of anything.”

Buckhorn was also pressed regarding the issue of whether Tampa is a sanctuary city.

The mayor has been consistent in saying that it is not, but added as always that he won’t be advising the Tampa Police Department to act as Customs and Enforcement officials in detaining undocumented immigrants unless they have committed a crime.

“That makes you a sanctuary city!” Webb interjected.

“Not necessarily” the mayor replied, repeating that if those people are found guilty of committing crimes, then they would certainly be detained. But they would not be detained for simply being undocumented.

“Undocumented? They’re illegal! They came into this country illegally, they broke a law to come into this country, Mayor,” Webb responded.

“They did, but I would tell you that we’re a nation of immigrants,” Buckhorn replied.

“We’re a nation of legal immigrants, Mayor,” Webb responded, later stating the premise that one reason Buckhorn might be so liberal on the issue is because “we know illegal immigrants convert into Democratic votes when they become legal.”

Buckhorn laughed before saying, “I don’t know that to be the case,” acknowledging that the Latino vote has been trending Democrat in recent elections, but that George W. Bush did receive 44 percent of the Latino vote as recently as 2004.

Buckhorn was also asked if he believed Donald Trump, 23 days into being president, should be impeached.

“At this point, no … I don’t think he has done nothing impeachable, but he’s made some decisions that clearly a lot of people have disagreed with.”

Former prosecutor, young GOP leader Berny Jacques contemplating run for House District 66

Former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney Berny Jacques is seriously considering a run for the state House District 66 seat next year, which will become an open seat with Republican Larry Ahern term-limited out.

The 29-year-old Haitian native has been active with the Pinellas County GOP since he arrived in the community in 2009 to attend Stetson Law School in Gulfport. That’s when he says he was drawn into the grassroots aspects of state government.

In many ways Jacques and his family are the embodiment of the American dream. His parents worked two and sometimes three jobs concurrently when they moved to the states in the mid-1990’s.

“They had to work hard to put their children in a better position,” he says. “And to see me go to college and graduate and become an attorney all within their lifetime, I mean, that’s a strong testament to what this nation has to offer, and I think that’s made possible by a free enterprise system that capitalizes on people’s desire to work hard.”

Jacques’ father currently teaches English as a second language in Naples, Florida, while his mother works as a registered nurse at a nursing home. He says they always stressed the power of education when he was growing up.

“They said if you take your schooling seriously and you apply yourself, you can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone.  I’ve always taken that with me and ran with it.”

Jacques was president of the Pinellas County Young Republican club in late 2013 when longtime U.S. Representative Bill Young died, igniting what would ultimately be one of the most expensive congressional campaigns ever. He got behind David Jolly’s candidacy early on. He also assisted on the campaigns of Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls in 2014.

If he pulls the trigger and announces later this spring for 2018, he says his platform will center around three main tenets – public safety, education and job creation.

Regarding education, he says you can expect him to be a strong advocate for school choice. On business, he talks about the importance of government creating “the environment” for businesses to grow.

Now working at the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer, Jacques considers himself “very pro Second Amendment,” saying that he wants to put individuals in the position too protect themselves as much as possible.

On the battle between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott regarding whether or not it’s a good thing to offer tax incentives to lure businesses to Florida, Jacques doesn’t take sides, saying  that “it’s important to understand that they both have the same goals, and that’s to create jobs for the state of Florida.” He does state that the doesn’t want government to choose between winners and losers.

On transportation, Jacques adamantly opposed the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax. Yet he also says that he wouldn’t oppose changing state law to allow big cities like St. Pete or Tampa to hold their own referendums. Current law only allows counties to do that.

For the past several years, both Rick Kriseman and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn have unsuccessfully lobbied Bay area legislators to give them the power to tax themselves to pay for rail projects in recent years. Jacques says as a legislator he wants to hear what the people say, and if they want the right to tax themselves, he says he wouldn’t stop them.

“I’m all for empowering voters to make decisions, so  if the people of St. Pete feel it’s appropriate, and it’s clearly stated that here’s the funding structure, and here’s what you’re going to be on the hook for, if they decide then they decide that,” he says, adding that his baseline philosophy is to err on the side of empowering the people to make the decision themselves. “I would probably vote no if you asked me to raise taxes, but my fellow citizen might feel otherwise.”

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