Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and transit advocate Ed Turanchik is seriously considering entering running for Tampa mayor in 2019.
“There’s been overwhelming broad-based encouragement from people that I should do it and that I needed to do it,” Turanchik told Florida Politics Tuesday afternoon.
The Tampa Bay Times initially reported his of his renewed interest.
The Tampa Democrat said that there’d been a “persistent drumbeat” for months now from people from all across the political spectrum encouraging him to enter the 2019 mayoral sweepstakes, which doesn’t figure to get seriously underway for another year. The election takes place in March of 2019.
The 62-year-old hasn’t served in government in nearly twenty years, having last served on the County Commission in 1998. He currently works at Ackerman LLP, a law firm where he works in government relations, zoning and urban development.
After he finished two terms as county commissioner, Turanchik took up perhaps his most quixotic campaign ever — a bid to have Tampa considered as a site for the 2012 Olympics (which ultimately was awarded to London).
After that bid failed, Turanchik took up the Civitas project in 2004, a mixed-use residential and commercial development which was supposed to transform downtown’s public housing projects. He then became involved in local real estate with the InTown Homes project in West Tampa.
And of course, he’s always been an advocate of different transit solutions over the years, most recently with the Cross-Bay Ferry, where he teamed with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for a public-private project that was considered a success earlier this year, but won’t come back this fall.
The Cross-Bay Ferry project came to fruition much sooner than another ferry project that Turanchik began working with Seattle based HMS Ferries back in the spring of 2013. The project evolved after studies showed that thousands of commuters who live in South Hillsborough County and drive to MacDill Air Force Base on a daily basis would take a ferry service if it were an option. There is currently a design and engineering study on the project is now underway.
He ran a campaign for Tampa mayor in 2011 that seemed to catch fire late, finishing fourth in a five-person field that was ultimately won by Bob Buckhorn. Though he didn’t win enough votes to get into the runoff, he did garner a group of passionate supporters and was endorsed by the alt-weekly Creative Loafing in the primary that year (when this correspondent served as political editor).
“A big-picture thinker who served in elected office and exercised leadership across county boundaries, he also has firsthand experience with the block-by-block realities of doing business in Tampa. He’s a progressive and a pragmatist,” wrote CL editor David Warner at the time.
Turanchik said he hasn’t considered running again at all, but has “gravitated” toward the idea of how Tampa can pivot toward the 21st century. He says it would be the culmination of nearly 30 years of civic engagement, and said it would be “intellectually stimulating.”
He learned a lot from that unsuccessful campaign and said that (presumably) some of those lessons learned would be to raise more campaign cash and run a more protracted campaign.
“I was outspent 10-1 and really only ran a 60-day campaign,” he said. “And I got 20 percent of the vote,”
Officially, he received 19.4 percent of the race, six percentage points behind Rose Ferlita and four points behind Buckhorn. He said that while many of his enthusiastic team of volunteers from that campaign are urging him on again for 2018, he’s also hearing from Tea Party members, Republicans, Democrats and business leaders.
Among those expected to run in the election are former Police Chief Jane Castor and current council members Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen.
And then there is David Straz, the 74-year-old philanthropist who dipped his toes into a possible candidacy on Sunday when his exploratory committee hosted a spaghetti lunch in West Tampa, which drew a crowd of approximately 250 people.
Like Turanchik, Straz said he’s only considering a candidacy because of grassroots supporters urging him to enter the contest. Both men say they’ll probably decide whether to go all in during the first quarter of 2018.
“I don’t know if I’m going to do it, but I’m looking at it seriously, and it’s got nothing to do with anyone in the field,” Turanchik said, adding that it’s the opportunity to do “great work that is meaningful and can move the city forward” that is attractive to him.