Tampa City Council Chair Mike Suarez says Bob Buckhorn‘s decision to opt out of a statewide run in 2018 should mean a lot less drama associated with the election for council chair next month, a development he says “is a good thing.”
There was plenty of such drama surrounding the election of a council in 2015 and 2016, due to the uncertainty around Buckhorn’s political ambitions.
But his announcement that he will forgo a run for governor and instead fulfill the last two years as Mayor of Tampa rejiggers the political calculus among some of the councilmembers who may be considering a run themselves for mayor in 2019. That’s because if Buckhorn had decided to run, it would mean that he would have likely relinquished his office well before his term was up. And under the city charter, if there are fewer than 15 months remaining in the mayor’s term, the current chairman serves as mayor.
That was a fact overshadowing last year’s council chair election, as well as the rumors that were floating that the mayor was ready to exit City Hall and work in a Hillary Clinton administration.
“I mean, obviously if the president asks you, you would consider,” Buckhorn said in the days immediately preceding last year’s council chair vote.
That possibility led to an excruciating contest for council chair between Suarez and incumbent Frank Reddick that ultimately took the council 14 ballots before choosing Suarez to lead them.
That was the same meeting where Reddick alleged that Vincent Gericitano, the president of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, made a throat-slashing gesture to Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, an indication, Reddick charged, that he was warning her not to vote for him for chairman. Ultimately, the Tampa Police Department Internal Affairs Department cleared Gericitano of that charge.
“It’s been a great honor and privilege to serve as chair of council the last year,” Suarez told SPB earlier this week. “I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m very appreciative that I’ve had the chance to serve in this role.”
The thought that Buckhorn might have to leave his seat early also was an issue in 2015. Months before Buckhorn was re-elected that year, he opened up his own political action fundraising committee, considered a first step toward a potential statewide run.
That year’s council chair election resulted in then incumbent Charlie Miranda losing out to Reddick, after having served the previous four years. Miranda tells SPB he has no interest in serving as chair this year.
“I’m happy with what I’m doing now. More time for life,” he says. And if his colleagues nominated for the position? “No, I would tell them, thank you very much, but I pass,” he says.
Reddick seems a bit ambivalent about becoming chair again. He says if his colleagues were to “honor” him by nominating him, “I would not turn them down.”
On the other hand, “it doesn’t give you any special privileges,” he says. “It’s more of a ceremonial type of event, and that’s it, but if your colleagues recognize you for that leadership role, then you have to feel honored and appreciate it.”
Yolie Capin currently chairs the monthly Community Redevelopment Agency meetings. She says the fact that Buckhorn isn’t going anywhere is going to take “a lot of stress off of everyone for those that were vying for that seat,” and says she is now interested in the chairman position.
On the current council, Suarez, Reddick and Capin’s names have all been floated as potential mayoral candidates in 2019 (Harry Cohen‘s has as well, but there is now more speculation that he will run to succeed his friend Pat Frank as Clerk of the Hillsborough Courts in 2020).
Reddick says flatly he has no interest in running for mayor, but is very interested in staying in public service, saying that a run for county commission or the state legislature is something he’s thinking about.
“As far as the Mayor’s race, I think I am leaving my options open,” she emailed SPB earlier this week. “Everyone knows I can definitely run a campaign.”
Suarez appears to be primed for a run for mayor, if a speech he recently gave to the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee is any indication. Other names being bandied about in town to run in 2019 include former Police Chief Jane Castor, architect Mickey Jacobs, businessman Topher Morrison, County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Ken Hagan.
Former state representative Ed Narain told this reporter several weeks ago that several people have called to ask about his interest, but he says that’s not something he’s actively pursuing at this time.
Then again, the election is two years away, meaning there’s plenty of time for him or others to think about running for the office.