Now that he is firmly ensconced in the mayor’s office, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn occasionally seems to forget how far he once was from that position.
He seems to forget that he was an underdog for much of the 2011 mayoral race and very well may not have made the run-off had former Mayor Dick Greco not stuck his foot in his mouth so many times.
Buckhorn seems to forget that he lost a primary in a 1992 state House race and that he finished third in a race for mayor in 2003.
Hizzoner seems to forget that he once lost a County Commission race to an opponent better known for being a professional wrestler who wore skin-tight, black and yellow briefs.
That’s now all ancient political history to Buckhorn, with his sky-high approval ratings and the region’s largest newspaper firmly in his corner on almost every issue. Yet, there are still moments when the mayor, who proudly dyes the Hillsborough River green on St. Patrick’s Day, can’t help but let his Irish pride get the better of him.
Like the time he cracked wise about “every wing nut and lunatic” intent on “causing mayhem” during Tampa’s hosting of the Republican National Convention. That paranoia directly contributed to the city being locked down during the convention, needlessly transforming Tampa into a police state.
There is also the matter of Buckhorn’s too-cute-by-half efforts to involve himself in the negotiations between rival-across-the-Bay St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club. Buckhorn has said time and time again he has no intention to be the “boyfriend” in any divorce between St. Pete and the Rays, yet, as one observer noted, he never stops mentioning how hot the wife is.
It’s at these moments when Buchhorn would do well to remember how cold it was in the political wilderness.
It’s not as if every item on Buckhorn’s to-do list is marked complete. Instead of trying to lure a baseball team with a package that likely includes $100 million in taxpayer dollars, Buckhorn would do well to focus on solving any one of the myriad of issues facing his town.
A recent survey by St. Pete Polls revealed only 12 percent of voters would like to see tax dollars spent on a new baseball stadium, while 31 percent would like to see money earmarked for solving Tampa’s homelessness issues, while 27 percent would like to see the money spent on transportation projects.
In other words, voters would like to see Buckhorn focused on being mayor, not sports promoter.
The most recent case of Buckhorn being Buckhorn was during his recent appearance on Bay News 9’s political talk show “Political Connections” during which the stalwart Democrat lamented the idea of Charlie Crist being his party’s gubernatorial nominee in 2014.
“I’m frustrated that our bench is not deeper than it is, the fact that we could conceivably wind up with a candidate who one or two years ago was saying something entirely different than where he is today,” Buckhorn said. “Clearly Rick Scott is vulnerable. I wish we had a pro-business Democrat, a centrist, because I think that person could win.”
Jeez, Bob, you mean someone like you?
It took Buckhorn only three days to walk back his public lamentation of Crist after his comments were featured in the Republican Party of Florida’s daily e-mail that takes political potshots at the former governor. Creative Loafing‘s Mitch Perry showed a copy of the e-mail to Buckhorn, who was surprised to see it, saying “Charlie is a friend of mine. I’ve known Charlie for a long time.”
Make no mistake, the prospect of Charlie Crist winning the Governor’s Mansion in 2014 is not what doesn’t sit well with Buckhorn. What really upsets Buckhorn is that Crist could occupy the building for eight years, thereby blocking ambitious Bob from running for higher office in 2018.
For a guy who lost three races before winning his dream job, Bob Buckhorn sure is worried about a lot of other things than being mayor of Tampa.