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Luis Viera friendship with Mike Suarez becomes an issue at New Tampa debate

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In the world of Tampa politics, where some folks spend considerable time about contemplating about what might happen years from now, there has been some interest in the District 7 run-off election in the context of how it might affect the chances of Mike Suarez getting an edge in the 2019 mayoral election.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said that he will decide within the next few months whether he will pursue a statewide candidacy in 2018. Most analysts believe the posts he’s looking at are Governor or Chief Financial Officer. In either case, if he were to run for either of those seats, he would need to step down in advance, which would put the City Council Chairman at the time in the mayor’s seat on an interim basis, which could catapult him or her into becoming the leading candidate in 2019.

Or so it goes.

Why that matters now is that Suarez is good friends with fellow Democrat Luis Veira, who is fighting to win the District 7 seat next week against Republican Jim Davison in the (nonpartisan) race. The theory goes that a Viera victory would mean he’d vote for Suarez next spring when the Council again votes on its leader, which anti-Suarez folks don’t want to happen (forget the fact that the Council vote for Chair in 2018 might be the real council vote that would actually matter, since Buckhorn could very likely still be in power at that time).

If you get all of that, then you’ll understand what Joe Caetano was up to on Tuesday night at the New Tampa Regional Library. During the first one-on-one debate between the two candidates since they qualified earlier this month to compete against each other in the December 6 runoff, Caetano, the former District 7 Councilman from 2007-2011 (who has already endorsed Davison) confronted Viera about a mailer he has distributed that features Suarez’s mug.

“This whole election is about who is going to be the next Mayor,” Caetano barked out.

“When I came to Mike to talk about this issue, we never spoke about the Chair of City Council,” Veira responded, dismissing such speculation as “narcissism and elitism within the city on these issues.”

Viera continued that he couldn’t believe that Caetano could think there was some deal between the two. “To even begin to say that is an issue, is just far outside of the realm of a reality,” he protested.

“The thing is, Suarez wants to be the mayor,” Caetano shouted back. “When the mayor goes to Tallahassee to run for governor-” but the rest of his sentence was drowned out by the moderators, who told him that he had already asked his question.

Davison, who would become the only Republican on the Council if elected, predicted that Veira would support Suarez for chair next year, and said he probably wouldn’t. “That may not be the politically expedient thing to be right now, but that’s the way I feel, ” Davison said, adding that the city council and the whole city of Tampa needs to be “shaken up.”

There are a whole host of names being floated already as potential mayoral candidates in 2019 – including several other Council members, such as Yolie Capin, Frank Reddick, Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda.

Whomever is elected next week, it might be hard for next vote on City Council for chair to supersede last year’s election, with it took no fewer than 14 ballots before Suarez was elected chairman.

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

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