GOP heavyweights from around the country gathered Wednesday night at a Tampa Yacht & Country Club reception as part of the Republican National Committee’s three-day summer meeting in Tampa, writes Rick Danielson.
To welcome them, the roster of state and local officials included Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, former Gov. Bob Martinez and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, all Republicans, plus Bob Buckhorn, the Democratic mayor of Tampa and former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, also a Democrat.
A notable no-show: St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, a Republican. He was invited, but had a prior engagement to speak at Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church.
A prior engagement to speak at Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church? No offense to Pastor Rickey Houston, but Mayor Foster should have re-scheduled his “prior engagement.”
In case Mayor Foster doesn’t realize it, staging the Republican National Convention is like hosting four Super Bowls. Yet, Foster seems to care less about what will be the most important event ever held in Tampa Bay. Sure, Tampa is the official host city, but, for the convention to succeed, it will have to be a regional affair.
Yet, Bill Foster acts as if might roadblock the Howard Franklin Bridge during the convention.
What’s really odd is that Foster is a red-meat Republican, but it’s Tampa’s Democratic mayor, Bob Buckhorn, who has been rolling out the welcome map. According to Danielson’s report, Buckhorn interrupted a family vacation to fly home from North Carolina and attend the reception.
Meanwhile, Bill Foster had his “prior engagement.”
The truth is Foster has completely missed an opportunity by not being engaged in the RNC planning process. Early on his administration, a small group of dedicated Republicans who had supported Foster in his campaign approached the Mayor about maximizing the city’s role in the 2012 RNC. One of their ideas was to create an ad hoc committee of prominent St. Petersburg Republicans dedicated to that goal. But the group never heard back from Foster and the city’s efforts to date have been minimal at best.
In case there is any doubt about Foster missing an opportunity, consider this: what if Rick Baker were still Mayor and tens of thousands of Republicans (and at least 18,000 members of the media) were coming to Tampa Bay? I guarantee by the time Baker was done with the marketing and planning, one would think the actual convention was being held in St. Pete rather than Tampa.
Instead, with Mayor Milquetoast in charge, St. Pete is an afterthought to its neighbor across the bay.