Bob Buckhorn flails, lurches right

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About a month ago, some interesting poll results were posted here, the subject of which was Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The polling was a sort of good news/bad news scenario for the mayor. 

Buckhorn all but laps all of the possible challengers tested against him, including Rose Ferlita, whom Buckhorn defeated in 2011 to win the Mayor’s Office. Against Ferlita, Buckhorn is favored 62 – 20 percent; against David Straz, Buckhorn leads 64 – 14 percent; against Jan Platt it’s 59 – 21 percent for Buckhorn. Even against popular State Representative Dana Young, Buckhorn wins handily, 64 – 14 percent.

Where Buckhorn would run into trouble is if former Mayor Pam Iorio ever wanted to run again. In that remote scenario, Buckhorn and Iorio are tied at 41 percent each.

The results show support for Buckhorn a mile wide and an inch thick. He is evidently personally popular, but he has yet to engage in a legacy-setting policy fight. After nearly two years at City Hall, he seems to be struggling to find the right outlet, or even the right ideas.

Eyebrows were raised when he tied himself to State Representative Dana Young — not just a Republican, but the House Majority Whip. First, he loudly praised her work on the reclaimed water bill signed into law by Rick Scott. The law effectively forbids water management districts from forcing cities and utilities to give away water they pay to treat. Originally, the bill was opposed by environmental groups — and loudly criticized by former governor Bob Graham — for granting utility companies and private entities ownership of treated water. 

On Buckhorn’s Facebook page, he continued to lavish praise on Representative Young for her being appointed to the Florida Defense Support Task Force. 

Though Buckhorn was not listed as a host or honorary host for Representative Young’s campaign kick-off fundraiser earlier this month, who could have been surprised if he had been?

One of the co-hosts of that fundraiser was Attorney General Pam Bondi, under fire in recent weeks for having an execution postponed so that she could have her own campaign kick-off fundraiser.

Included on that doomed host committee? Bob Buckhorn. 

The recent episode of Bob Buckhorn’s political strangeness culminated earlier this month when Hizzoner stood with Governor Rick Scott — one of the least popular and most politically vulnerable governors in the nation, and one of the loudest critics of Obamacare — to offer up an astounding hypocrisy: though Scott has called the Affordable Care Act the “biggest job-killer ever,” he stood with Buckhorn to celebrate a Tampa-based health care company’s announcement that it will add 1,000 jobs thanks entirely to Obamacare.

Buckhorn was effusive in his praise for the governor: “The governor and I are in different political parties. That’s no secret. We could not have had a better partner than this governor. … We are thankful for that leadership.”

No better partner than the guy who called the job-creating Affordable Care Act the “biggest job-killer ever”?

Buckhorn may not mean to indelibly tie himself to such prominent Republicans, but that is exactly what he is doing. A good political adviser — like Siobhan Harley, who left for a job in Nashville earlier this year — might tell the mayor to spend a little less time thinking about his political future, and politics in this state, and a little more time on the things that matter to the citizens of Tampa. 

Benjamin J. Kirby published the Spencerian, a political blog covering national and local politics, for eight years. He spent twenty years serving in national and local government as well as the non-profit sector.  A contributor to Context Florida, he is currently the principal of Typeset Media Strategiesproviding writing services, social media content, and communications strategy for non-profits, political leaders, and drivers of community conversations.