Bob Buckhorn – Florida Politics
Steve Cona

Tampa Bay builders back Steve Cona for Hillsborough School Board

Tampa businessman Steve Cona picked up an endorsement from Tampa Bay Builders Association in his campaign for the Hillsborough School Board.

“The Tampa Bay Builders Association is happy to endorse Steve Cona for the Hillsborough County School Board, District 1,” said Jennifer Motsinger, executive vice president at TBBA. “Our organization understands that high-quality education is the key component to ensuring that students have a pathway to prosperity after graduation. We strongly believe that Steve will continuously advocate for our students in every school in the county so that they have the resources and tools to succeed.”

TBBA joins Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in endorsing Cona, the president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

“I’m very thankful for the endorsement from the TBBA,” said Cona. “It really does take a village for our students to go from dreamers to achievers, and we must all hold our school board accountable to our communities. I am proud to stand with the TBBA in support of our students and making sure that we are working our hardest in providing them a quality education from K-12 grade.”

Cona was the first candidate to enter the race to replace current School Board member Susan Valdes, who is now a candidate for House District 62. He and two other candidates, Gil Machin and William Person, have qualified for the ballot.

As of July 6, Cona had raised $47,441 for his campaign, with two thirds of that cash coming in during the first 11 days of his campaign. He leads the field with $40,718 on hand, followed by Person with $10,448 in the bank and Machin with $8,037.

The nonpartisan race will be on the Aug. 28 primary ballot and if any candidate garners more than half the vote, they will win the seat outright, otherwise the top-two vote-getters will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

Americans for Prosperity blasts Bob Buckhorn over Tampa Bay Rays deal

Conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Florida has long criticized taxpayer-funded sports stadiums, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ new ballpark is no exception.

A recent report found that the preferred site for the new stadium is in a tract of land that was recently designated as an “economic opportunity zone,” making it eligible for federal tax breaks. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says that the Ybor City tract’s designation isn’t just because of the stadium. While the report certainly sheds a little more light on who will pay for the Rays’ new home, AFP-FL isn’t a fan.

In a Thursday press release, the group slammed Buckhorn for expecting taxpayers to pay for most of the new stadium.

“The only ones who will benefit from this lopsided deal are crony politicians and the Rays’ ownership. The audacity of the team to insist that they will only pay for $150 million of a potentially $800 million project is emblematic of the entitled mentality that drives these corporate welfare schemes. Taxpayers deserve better,” AFP-FL said.

The economic opportunity designation allows for developers, stadium builders or otherwise, to delay paying federal taxes on certain investments or real estate sales if they invest in that zone.

Count Gov. Rick Scott among those “crony politicians,” too, as took the Governor pulling some strings to get the Ybor City tract added to the list of sites. Other sites had to apply for the designation and only about a third of applicants made the cut.

On sports stadiums, AFP-FL has maintained that taxpayer-funded incentives deals aren’t just “corporate welfare,” they’re financial losers.

A 2018 study from The Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, a research arm of the Florida Legislature, found that state-level incentives deals for pro sports stadiums returns only 32 cents per tax dollar spent. An that was an increase from 2015, when that incentives program saw a return of about 30 cents on the dollar.

Steve Cona

Bob Buckhorn endorses Steve Cona for Hillsborough School Board

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is endorsing businessman Steve Cona for Hillsborough County School Board District 1 seat.

“I believe that Steve is the best candidate for School Board District 1,” Buckhorn said Thursday. “For years, he has dedicated himself to his community and helped strengthen Hillsborough County. Steve will continue to fight to ensure that our students get the best education possible to compete with other students across the country and provide them with the tools and resources for success after they graduate.”

The Hillsborough native was the first-in candidate for the race, putting in his paperwork the same day the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections announced it had accepted a resign-to-run letter from 14-year School Board member Susan Valdes, who is now a candidate for House District 62.

“I’m proud to have the support of Mayor Buckhorn,” Cona said. “As a longtime mayor of Tampa, he knows the challenges firsthand facing our school system. We’ve made strides over the years, but we can do more to make sure our students go from learners to earners. I am excited to fight for our students so that they have a solid pathway to success from kindergarten through graduation.”

The endorsement comes a couple days after Cona filed his first campaign finance report, showing he raised more than $32,000 over the first 11 days in the race.

Cona faces Gil Machin and William Person in the nonpartisan election.

Person, a retired school district administrator, moved his campaign over from the District 6 race. He sought District 1 seat two years ago and came within 267 votes of defeating Valdes. Machin, a retired county social services administrator, appears to be a first-time candidate.

The District 1 School Board seat special election will be on the 2018 ballot alongside the regularly scheduled elections for Districts 2, 4 and 6.

District 1 covers northwestern Hillsborough, including part of Tampa and the communities of Egypt Lake, Keystone, Leto, Town ‘n’ Country and Westchase. The winner of the nonpartisan election will serve out the remainder of Valdes’ term, which runs through 2020.

#2 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Bob Buckhorn

The last time anyone asked, Tampanians overwhelmingly said they approve of the job Bob Buckhorn has done as Mayor of Tampa. Back in November, some three-quarters of 350 Tampa residents surveyed said they approve of his performance, and most said the city is headed in the right direction — that was before Raybor was a thing.

In his more than seven years as mayor, Buckhorn has been a vocal proponent of downtown Tampa’s transformation from a gritty spot with little activity to a vibrant hub with a true sense of place. The same goes for recently-reimagined neighborhoods like Ybor City and Tampa Heights.

“Tampa’s Mayor gets stuff done,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Seth McKeel. “He’ll leave Tampa way better than he found it and has ensured a significant and long-lasting legacy.”

Buckhorn’s office likely selected Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park for his final State of the City address in May for more than its pretty backdrop. The newly revamped park, which sits on the Hillsborough River’s long-ignored western bank, is emblematic of the progress the city has seen under Buckhorn’s direction.

Buckhorn has been getting plenty of time on camera as part of Hillsborough County leaders’ efforts to build a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays in Ybor City.

But construction cranes, food halls, a lovely riverfront and the possibility of pro baseball in Tampa proper only tell part of the story. In the past year, Buckhorn was front-and-center as national news outlets depicted a region that sat squarely in the crosshairs of Hurricane Irma. Months later, he was the face of the effort to find the Seminole Heights killer, which ultimately led to the suspect’s arrest in December.

While Buckhorn’s been an effective mayor, he is not without his foils. Pre-emption policies Republican lawmakers have passed at the state level have blocked Buckhorn and other Democratic Florida mayors from enacting local regulations on a range of matters, including guns and raising the minimum wage. And while Buckhorn has long been a vocal advocate of overhauling Tampa’s sorely-lacking transit infrastructure, his calls for boosting gridlock-easing public transportation are often met with little enthusiasm at the county and state level.

It’s unclear what Buckhorn will be up to a year from now. He leaves office in spring of 2019. It’s been over a year since he turned down a run for governor, but he appears to be up for serving as lieutenant governor under the right person. He could also do what many former electeds do: transition back into private life as a well-paid consultant, at least for the time being.

In the meantime, he probably won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Despite his term ending next year and an uncertain future after that, Buckhorn climbed to the No. 2 spot from his third-place ranking in 2017.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “He is term-limited as Tampa’s mayor next year, but he likes the action too much to stay on the sideline.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#4 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Rick Kriseman

As the 2017 mayoral race ramped up last year, re-election was never a sure thing for incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. It was far from it at times.

Yet despite a significant challenge from former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who was often ahead in the polls, he and his allies pulled it off.

Whether it was a sign of a blue wave or the result of constant door-knocking or one of many other potential factors, we’ll never know. But Kriseman’s re-election helped solidify the city’s status as a (mostly) progressive haven.

A former state Representative who’s a lawyer by trade, observers say Kriseman is as likable as he is serious about policymaking.

“It’s not often you meet an elected official you want to go to a Jimmy Buffett concert with and also work with on major policy issues. Mayor Kriseman is that guy. Faced with many challenges, Rick has shown that he is not only extremely well-liked but is leaving behind a legacy of progressive leadership,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer.

Since sworn in for his second time, Kriseman has championed a proposed ban on offshore drilling, joined a lawsuit against Governor Rick Scott over a 2011 barring cities and counties from passing local gun laws and renamed the main branch of the city’s library after former President Barack Obama. While he and other mayors’ hands are tied on gun laws per se, he’s also vowed to divest city dollars from gun manufacturers and vendors.

The city (downtown in particular) is seeing an influx of development under Kriseman’s watch. While Chamber of Commerce types herald these projects for their economic development potential, some are concerned that the diverse population that made downtown appealing are being priced out of their neighborhoods and Central Avenue storefronts.

Remaining to be seen is whether the Pier will finish on time. There’s also that little thing that almost cost him his re-election: whether the city’s wastewater system overhaul will be completed in time to prevent any more sewage dumps.

What significantly boosts Kriseman’s power factor is the fact that the majority of St. Petersburg City Council members support his agenda. It can’t hurt to have the bulk of the Pinellas County Commission generally on his side, either.

Unlike Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who terms out in early 2019 with an uncertain, Kriseman has more than three-and-a-half years to go as mayor. That gives him room to step up as a regional figure. We saw that potential in his willingness to let the Rays look at potential stadium sites in Tampa (even though he seemed to think team officials would ultimately stay in St. Pete) and in his ability to get Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to pitch in for a ferry service pilot in 2016.

Kriseman ranked seventh in 2017.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

David Straz taps Mark Hanisee to manage campaign for Tampa mayor

Hillsborough Democratic Party Executive Director Mark Hanisee announced Thursday he is leaving his post to manage the David Straz for Tampa Mayor campaign.

Hanisee, who will replace Susan Cleary, will start July 1.

“I am delighted to welcome Mark to the campaign,” Straz said in a statement. “Mark Hanisee’s deep roots and love for Tampa will guide him as we put together a strong campaign.”

“I am very excited to join the Straz campaign,” Hanisee said. “David Straz is a leader and a man of great stature and accomplishments. When I look at the tremendous impact he has had on the City of Tampa as a private citizen, I see great promise for what he will be able to accomplish as mayor.”

Also, the Straz campaign unveiled “Background,” a new introductory video in his bid to replace term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

In the video, Straz tells his “uniquely American story.”

“I have lived the American dream, and it started with a broom in my hand,” Straz says. “As Mayor, I will work with everyone as we continue to grow and prosper … The future is incredibly bright for Tampa and I want you to join and be a part of my campaign.”

Clary, from Winter Garden, was only campaign manager for about a month since Straz entered the Tampa mayoral race May 8.  She has worked on several Democratic campaigns, including that of U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

Hanisee, a third generation Floridian, spent the last three and a half years as executive director of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party. During that time, the HCDEC raised nearly $600,000 and successfully helped Andrew Warren become state attorney. As former chairman of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee from 2010-2014, Hanisee came on board in January 2015 to help lead the Hillsborough Democrats with fundraising efforts.

Working to elect Pat Kemp in 2016, Hanisee also helped preserved the at-large commissioner position, for which he was honored that year with the Chair’s Award for Most Valuable Player.

In Pinellas, Hanisee provided support for Rick Kriseman’s win as mayor of St. Petersburg in 2014, earning a Golden Gavel Award by the Florida Democratic Party.

Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend said in a statement

“Mark will be greatly missed. Over the past nearly 4 years we have righted our ship and are now on solid financial footing that allows us to support candidates and improve our GOTV efforts. Our membership has grown to 314 and we have implemented our 2018 ground game for voter engagement.

“While Mark’s primary responsibilities have been focused on fundraising he has also been a valuable resource to the team in our efforts to organize HC in a way that helps to elect Democrats. We wish Mark well. I personally will miss his collegial support and his counsel.

“I and my fellow officers are very confident that we have learned a lot from Mark and as we pull together with your support we will continue to thrive and move forward.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call email me.

“Well wishes to Mark; I am sure will be appreciated by him.”

Straz faces former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, Tampa City Council members Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen, and businessman Topher Morrison.

To view the video, click here.

Joe Henderson: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gives Tallahassee an earful

Whoever succeeds Bob Buckhorn next year as Tampa’s mayor will have a tough time matching his ability to deliver a speech.

His pace and timing are excellent, his voice rising and rising when he wants to engage the listener fully and hammer home a point.

Then again, Buckhorn’s message Friday in his “State of the City” address would have come through loud and clear even if Tom Fumbletongue had been speaking.

Buckhorn went beyond the usual cheerleading and optimism that has characterized most of his speeches. He blasted — and I mean BLASTED — the Republican-led Legislature for passing laws that have hamstrung the ability of big-city mayor, most of whom are Democrats, to raise money and provide services for a rapidly growing population.

Buckhorn called it “an outright attack on local governments by leadership in the Florida Legislature.”

He was just getting started.

“I’ve been around city government for 30 years, and I’ve never seen such a blatant attack to undermine local government and to strip away the powers of self-governance. It’s wrong, and it needs to stop. It’s not all of them, but it’s a lot of the leadership. And you can vote against those who vote against you.

“During campaign season they run around talking about their conservative principles, how less government is better, how smaller government is more efficient, how government closest to the people is the best government. Well, guess who the hell that is? That’s us, that’s us,” he thundered.

His voice kept rising, reaching a crescendo when he said, “ … or, God forbid, (when) we want to pass common-sense gun legislation, they say, ‘Oh no! We know better! We know what’s good for you! We’re going to decide for you.’ Tallahassee knows better? Are you kidding me? Not now, not ever. Let us do our jobs.”

He wasn’t finished.

“This is the same Legislature that pays a lot of attention to the NRA and very little attention to the PTAs.”

That sounded an awful lot like a campaign speech and not so much about the state of the city.

Maybe it was.

While Buckhorn decided against running for governor, he hasn’t ruled out taking the No. 2 spot on a Democratic ticket if he is asked. That idea has been floated.

I talked to him about that recently. The most telling thing Buckhorn said was that he would only agree to seek the lieutenant governor’s job if he felt he had a chance to really contribute to policy.

I’ve known him a long time. He doesn’t have the kind of personality that would handle four years of ribbon-cuttings and Kiwanis Club speeches.

In two terms as mayor, he was often on the business end of edicts from Tallahassee on issues that included attempts at gun control, so-called sanctuary cities, limits on the ability of cities to raise taxes, and even an attempt in the last Session for the state to pre-empt all local tree-trimming laws.

As a No. 2, Buckhorn might flourish as an enforcer and be the advocate for local cities that mayors across the state say is needed.

Would he do that?

My guess is he would, if the right person asked, said the right things, and then let Buckhorn be Buckhorn.

If that happens, one thing is certain. Tallahassee would get an earful.

Again.

Jane Castor has already raised $250K for Tampa mayoral bid

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor has brought in some serious coin since she announced her run for Tampa Mayor in mid-April.

The 31-year TPD veteran has now brought in nearly $250,000 from more than 300 donors.

“The numbers are humbling,” Castor said. “When I kicked off my campaign in April—only two weeks ago—I said that our citizens are our city’s strongest asset. This show of support only reaffirms that conviction for me.”

Castor has spent the past few weeks spreading a “Tampa Strong” message, with the pillars being “a strong foundation, stronger neighborhoods, and a strong economy.”

Her fundraising numbers instantly turn her into a leading candidate in the race to replace Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who is leaving office next year due to term limits.

Castor, 58, was Tampa’s first female police chief, as well it’s first openly LGBTQ police chief. Though the Mayoral race is nonpartisan Castor’s longtime partner, Tampa-based lobbyist and political analyst Ana Cruz, is the daughter of House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz.

The $250,000 total puts her ahead of the next closest candidate, Ed Turanchik, who had raised about $155,000 as of March 31. He announced he would again run for mayor in 2019 in early February.

Of the other four candidates in the race, only Christopher “Topher” Morrison has posted fundraising numbers of any significance – about $16,000 over three months – though a couple of major candidates yet to announce their first fundraising numbers.

District 4 City Councilmember Harry Cohen, a prolific fundraiser, filed in the last few days of March and has not yet shown his April numbers. District 1 Councilmember Mike Suarez made his candidacy official on May 1, so his first report won’t show up until June.

The mayoral election will be held March 5, 2019, when Tampa holds its municipal elections. Also slated for the ballot are the district 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 city council seats. The new mayor and councilmembers will take office on April 1, 2019.

Joe Henderson: Tampa crowded mayor field gets another candidate

The official entry of Mike Suarez into the field campaigning to be Tampa’s next mayor is expected, as Florida Politics reported, as soon as today.

Suarez, a city council member, has long been expected to join what is becoming an increasingly crowded and interesting field.

So far, former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, District 4 Councilmember Harry Cohen, and former county commissioner Ed Turanchik are in the race along with a human named Michael Hazard and businessman Christopher “Topher” Morrison.

Businessman/philanthropist David Straz has been the subject of rumors about running, and last week he did change from Donald Trump supporter to a registered Democrat – for what that’s worth. Although the mayor’s race is officially non-partisan, no Republican has ever won.

Bob Martinez, who became the Republican governor of Florida, was known to be a Democrat when he successfully ran to be Tampa’s mayor in 1979. He changed parties after meeting Ronald Reagan, but I digress.

We’re talking about today’s mayor’s race in Tampa. It’s a lot bigger job than cutting ribbons and passing proclamations.

“Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, tell me how you’re going to fund it,” long-time Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda said. “Whoever he or she is going to face a billion dollars in infrastructure needs in water and sewer. One billion, with a B.”

Even against that, this looks like one of the strongest fields in recent memories.

Start with Castor, who served six years as Buckhorn’s police chief. He coaxed her into staying on an extra year with a special services contract after she reached her planned retirement. Needless to say, he is a big fan.

“She’s solid. She’s consistent. She’s a known commodity. She has proven she can run a big, big department with a big budget,” he said.

“And I have seen her in this city’s best of times, and certainly in its worst of times. She’s unflappable. She did a good job for me, and I think by extension she will do a good job for the community.”

Notably, Buckhorn did stop short of a full endorsement.

Castor has been meeting for months with community groups. Although this is her first try at elected office, she has a strong team to back her candidacy as well as a track record as an effective manager.

Running a major city’s police department is not a challenge for the meek.

“It’s the toughest department out of all the departments I have. Given the nature of what they do and the types of personalities you deal with in public safety, managing and balancing that relationship with the community, it’s complex,” Buckhorn said.

“It is very, very challenging. When it goes bad, it can go really, really bad. But when it goes good, it has a lasting impact. Certainly, for the six years she worked for me I never worried about the police department.”

Turanchik, who served previously on the Hillsborough County Commission, raised more than $100,000 in the first month since declaring his candidacy in February.

“The field may even get stronger and larger,” Miranda said. “But the public has to look at themselves in the mirror and decide what they want, and how they want to pay for it.”

Buckhorn’s nearly two terms as Tampa’s mayor has been about the rebirth of the city’s once-dormant downtown. The next mayor, which will be chosen in about a year, will be expected to build on that.

The plan for that will be laid out, hopefully in detail, on the campaign trail. One thing is for sure, though.

“It’s a strong field, but before I say anything I want to see what they all have to say about what they want to do,” Miranda said.

At this point, even as strong as this field looks, everyone should be saying the same thing.

Mike Suarez

Mike Suarez to join race to be next Tampa mayor

Sources close to Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez say he’s set to enter the race for Tampa mayor as soon as Tuesday.

Suarez, a third-generation Tampanian, faces term limits in his citywide District 1 Council seat and has long been thought to be eyeing a run for mayor. He was elected to the City Council in 2011 and served as its chairman in 2016 and 2017.

A few months ago, the second-term Councilman spoke on transportation issues, arts funding and “home rule” issues at a Café con Tampa event. He didn’t comment on his potential candidacy then, but it was clear he saw himself being involved in city politics after his time on the council was up.

Now that the election is less than a year away, it looks as if he’s ready to announce the next step for his political career.

When he enters the race he will join five other candidates vying to replace term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn: former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, District 4 Councilmember Harry Cohen, political unknown Michael Hazard, businessman Christopher “Topher” Morrison and former county commissioner Ed Turanchik.

Philanthropist David Straz is also expected to enter the race.

Currently Turanchik, who ran for mayor in 2011, leads the field in fundraising. He filed for the job in February and had raised about $155,000 through his campaign political committee as of March 31.

Outside of Turanchick, the race to succeed Buckhorn is wide open.

The only other candidate showing signs of life thus far is Morrison, who has raised about $16,000 since opening his campaign account in January but has only about $1,000 in the bank.

Castor filed for the seat two weeks ago and hasn’t posted her first campaign finance report. Cohen, a prolific fundraiser, filed near the end of last month and is also yet to report any contributions.

The mayoral election will be held March 5, 2019, when Tampa holds its municipal elections. Also slated for the ballot are the district 1, 3, 4 and 5 and 7 city council seats. The new mayor and councilmembers will take office on April 1, 2019.

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