When the Pittsburgh Steelers scored a field goal in overtime to win their game on Sunday, the men in black and gold kicked off the offseason for the twenty hapless teams who did not make the NFL playoffs. The worst among them, the Cleveland Browns, are said to be “on the clock,” meaning because they have the first pick of the 2018 draft; the Browns choice is the next major decision that has to be made before all the other dominoes can fall.
Of course he does not have the pitiful win-loss record of the Browns, but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is the Florida politician now on the clock when it comes to who will run for what in 2018.
Gwen Graham, Phil Levine, and Adam Putnam have all but declared; it’s simply a matter of how they launch their campaigns, not if they will run.
Bill Nelson is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Rick Scott will probably challenge him, but the governor — because he can self-fund — does not have to make a decision until next year.
Richard Corcoran is a question mark about wanting to run for governor in 2018, but if he does, he would not announce until next year, either before or after the 2018 session.
Jack Latvala‘s another possible candidate, but if he gets in it won’t be until later this summer, at the earliest.
Certainly, there are other possible candidates out there – Rick Baker, Carlos Beruff, Andrew Gillum, Mike Huckabee – but none are as clearly defined as a potential contender as Buckhorn.
Seriously, Mayor Buckhorn, you are on the clock.
Of course, if Buckhorn could have his way, he would run for a third term as Mayor. And a fourth. And probably a fifth. He must look at his friend, Buddy Dyer, with envy because the Mayor of Orlando is not subject to term limits.
So, if there is to be a next chapter to Buckhorn’s political career, it will have to be in Tallahassee, not Tampa. And he’ll need to make a decision sooner rather than later.
As first reported on Florida Politics, top Democratic fundraiser Greg Goddard has signed on with Nelson’s re-election effort. Goddard working for Nelson is really not a big deal, except to those following the invisible primary among the possible Democratic contenders. The former finance director for Hillary Clinton’s Florida campaign was also being pursued by Graham and Levine, who will now have to double down to sign the next best player available on their draft boards.
As one top Democratic fundraiser said to me yesterday, “All I hear about is Gwen and Phil going after staff. I never hear about Bob.”
(That Adam Goodman, who has consulted in the past for Buckhorn, is ready to work for Levine, says a lot.)
And when asked recently by William March of the Tampa Bay Times if could run for Chief Financial Officer instead of Governor, Buckhorn essentially flinched.
“Certainly it is an option, but it’s not an option because I fear competition (in the Governor’s race),” said Buckhorn. “It does offer an alternative, but not an alternative that I have spent a lot of time thinking about recently. If people are out there blabbering, it’s not because they’ve had a conversation with me.”
Well, people are out there blabbering, and Buckhorn is wrong to criticize them for doing so. After all, it was the Mayor who did not wait 24 hours after Charlie Crist lost to Scott before speculating about the 2018 race.
“There will be an open seat in four years. I’m just saying.”
Skeptics of Buckhorn’s statewide viablility are quick to point out that in those four years, he has probably not done enough to build a large enough network to run statewide. Fundraising for his political committee, One Florida, has been anemic (just $140,000 raised through November 30). Nor is Buckhorn a star on the chicken dinner circuit.
Still, Buckhorn does have a compelling story to tell about how he led his city to a new level of success. And he is a helluva retail politician who probably is more comfortable than others in the current ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ political environment.
But before he can tell the Tampa success story and demonstrate what a great retail pol he is, Buckhorn has to make a decision. And soon.