Bob Buckhorn Archives - Florida Politics

Bob Buckhorn endorses Mike Alvarez in HD 62 Democratic primary

Tampa Democrat Mike Alvarez scored a last-minute endorsement from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in the race to succeed House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Hillsborough County’s House District 62.

“There is only one candidate in this race that speaks to the heart and soul of this district and that is Mike Alvarez,” Buckhorn said. “He knows the community, has served his country as a member of the United States Marine Corps, and is prepared to be our Representative in Tallahassee. He will be a credible and competent voice for West Tampa and Town and Country.”

The endorsement comes a week out from the primary election for HD 62, which will effectively decide Cruz’ replacement in the House — the winner of the primary race will still be on the November ballot, though their only competition will be write-in candidate Jose Vazquez. A write-in candidate has never won elected office in Florida.

Alvarez joined the U.S. Marine Corps after the 9/11 attacks and served three tours overseas before returning home to Tampa to work as the director of operations for family-owned business Westfall Roofing. Alvarez is also an active member of the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Oakford Park Neighborhood Association, the Sierra Club, and the Hillsborough Democratic Party Hispanic Caucus, where he serves as secretary.

“Mayor Buckhorn has always been an advocate for our schools, our community, and our Democratic values,” Alvarez said. “I’m humbled to have his endorsement and I look forward to working with him to build on our successes.”

Buckhorn nod is the latest high-profile endorsement Alvarez has received in the state House race. He recently landed the backing of Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, and has also picked up support from the Florida Education Association, the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association and the Florida AFL-CIO.

Alvarez, the first-in candidate for the race, faces School Board member Susan Valdes and activist Chris Cano in the primary. Vazquez’ candidacy locked down the election to registered Democrats.

Through Aug. 10, Alvarez held a fundraising advantage with more than $70,000 raised, including $31,698 in loans, and about $7,800 in the bank. Valdes has raised $19,315 and has $3,830 banked, while Cano has brought in $4,163 and has $792 on hand.

Despite lagging in the money race, Valdes has been the beneficiary of significant outside spending by the Florida Federation for Children, a political committee funded by charter school companies. Valdes had promised early on in her campaign to not accept contributions from charter school companies.

Her campaign has been mired by controversy since she entered the race. Alongside Castor’s endorsement of Alvarez, she issued a scathing rebuke of the 14-year school board member for using a picture of Castor in a mailer sent out by her campaign, which she said some could misinterpret as an endorsement.

“Let me be clear, the candidate in this race who has my endorsement and support is Mike Alvarez. If you support public schools, if you share our Democratic values, and if you want honesty from your elected officials, vote for Mike Alvarez,” Castor said at the time.

Valdes kicked off her campaign with a resign-to-run letter of questionable legitimacy, and weeks later made more negative headlines after a video surfaced of her dodging a question about whether she would accept campaign contributions from charter schools.

In the wake of that video going semi-viral, Valdes’ campaign threatened to pull strings and have the man who recorded it fired from his job at the State Attorney’s office.

HD 62 covers part of Hillsborough County and is a Democratic stronghold.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Joe Henderson: Gwen Graham focused on policies, not breaking ceilings

There was an interesting moment last Thursday when Gwen Graham, the presumed leader at this point for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, stopped by the historic Columbia restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City to accept the endorsement of Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

During his introduction of Graham, Buckhorn noted that Graham would be the first female Governor in Florida’s history, “And as the father of two little girls, I’m about breaking that ceiling.”

Graham wouldn’t go there.

She kept her remarks focused on policy and what she has to offer the state on issues like schools and the environment. She wouldn’t take the bait, either, when asked how she felt about Buckhorn as a potential running mate.

“There is plenty of time to talk about that after we win the nomination,” she said.

The message from the candidate is clear. Don’t talk about breaking ceilings and certainly don’t get ahead of things. Staying focused on explaining your policies will make more of an impression on voters than anything else.

Democrats seemed to believe in 2016 that voters would go obediently along with the idea that it was Hillary Clinton‘s time to win because she would shatter a ceiling by becoming the first female president. Voters were expected to obediently confirm that.

They did not.

That’s particularly important because even though Gwen Graham has been ahead in the polls for several weeks, there are indications that plenty of voters haven’t decided who to support — even though there is barely a week before the Aug. 28 primary. And while Graham had a good visit to Tampa, so did rival Andrew Gillum.

It was there that he snagged the full-throated endorsement of Bernie Sanders, and that got a lot of headlines. And that’s not all.

He also has received high-profile celebrity endorsements from Jane Fonda, Alec Baldwin, and several others, although it’s questionable how much that would matter at this late date.

While it does show that Gillum has strong support from progressives, in the end, who endorsed you matters far less to voters than whether they agree with your vision for the state.

Say what you will about Donald Trump, but in 2016, while Clinton was projecting an air that no one would be dumb enough to vote for him, he pounded the points over and over about border security, tax cuts, shredding regulations, and so on.

That message flipped enough key states, including Florida, to put him in the White House.

So, when I asked Graham about the $1 billion backlog in facilities maintenance at Hillsborough County public schools, she had a ready answer.

“This is another example of the starvation at our schools after 20 years of Republican rule. They have not received the resources they need for the maintenance and upkeep of the schools, and as a result, we have seen lead in the water of other school districts as well,” she said.

“When I am Governor, I’m committed to restoring the promise to public education across the state of Florida from one end to the other and give the resources back to our public schools that are desperately needed for capital improvements as well as teacher pay.”

I followed up with a question about the growth of charter schools in the state. That has been a key push for Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee.

“My concern about charter schools is that they have morphed into something they weren’t intended to be. Charter schools initially were meant to be community-based that were supported by the families and were part of the of the school district,” she said.

“They have become for-profit behemoths that are taking money away from our public schools. In many cases, we’re finding that the education they were providing is not of a quality we should expect at any school.”

Yep, it’s a campaign that’s all about the policy and not so much about the personality.

It’s an old-school notion from the daughter of an old-school politician, former Governor Bob Graham. Someone, it seems, has learned a lesson.

Poll shows Bob Buckhorn’s popularity makes compelling case for Lt. Gov. pick

It seems like an eternity since Bob Buckhorn ended speculation that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Governor, but the popular two-term Tampa Mayor could very well end up spending the next four or eight years in Tallahassee.

According to a new poll conducted by ClearView Research, Buckhorn is still wildly popular among Tampa voters, making him a top-tier contender to join the Democratic gubernatorial nominee as their Lieutenant Governor pick on the November ballot.

The poll, conducted in May, found no evidence of “Buckhorn fatigue” among Tampanians. More than three quarters of respondents said they had a positive view of the 60-year-old politician more than seven years into his reign at City Hall. Of those, 36 percent said they saw Buckhorn as “very favorable.”

The rest of the crowd weren’t too down on him. Just 7 percent had a “somewhat unfavorable” impression of Buckhorn, while 5 percent were resolute in their dislike. The remainder, per the poll, were either unsure or refused to answer the question.

Of course, those numbers could shift in the current sharply divided political climate. It’s no secret that Buckhorn is a Democrat, but Tampa Mayor is a non-partisan office and no voter saw a “D” next to his name on the ballot in either 2011, when he won the job with 63 percent of the vote, or 2015, when he was re-elected with 96 percent support.

Buckhorn has his detractors, and while most attacks have rolled off him like water off a duck’s back during his time as mayor, their attacks would be magnified if his name was on the statewide ballot. Think the Koch brothers-backed blasts on Buckhorn’s involvement in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium proposal.

Still, would adding Buckhorn to the ticket help the Democratic gubernatorial nominee? It’s not unlikely.

Hillsborough County is among the most important in any statewide election. It has accounted for about 6 percent of the state wide vote in the last four general elections, but despite voting plus-7 for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election and for Hillary Clinton by the same margin two years ago, the county has been much tighter in the past two gubernatorial races.

Charlie Crist won Hillsborough by a slim 48-46 margin when he ran for his old job as a Democrat in 2014, which was a downgrade from Alex Sink’s 50-47 performance in the county four years prior.

Take Buckhorn’s ubiquity in Tampa politics and his popularity and toss in the fact that Nov. 6 is shaping up to be a showdown between a loyal Donald Trump Republican and a Democrat — be it current poll leader Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene or Philip Levine — that has vowed firm opposition to the president.

That’s a recipe for running up the score in Tampa Bay.

But does Buckhorn even want to be Lieutenant Governor? It’s a largely ceremonial position that has no real assigned duties unless, per the Florida Constitution, the Governor doles them out.

That remains to be seen. Few believe he’ll sit on the sidelines after his term runs out in the spring, and rumors indicate he’s actively gunning for the job.

The ClearView Research poll was conducted May 1 through May 10 and took responses from 301 Tampa voters via live phone interviews, 38 percent of whom were reached by cell phone. The sample was balanced by gender, race, age, and party in order for our distribution to be consistent and similar to the actual voting population.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.64 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

David Straz releases first ads for Tampa Mayor campaign

Philanthropist David Straz is rolling out the first digital and TV ads supporting his Tampa Mayor bid starting today, eight months out from the March 5 election.

“I want to introduce myself to the people of Tampa and demonstrate the impact I have had on our community as a private citizen,” Straz said Thursday. “Much of my work helping Tampa grow and prosper has taken place in the private sector through leadership and philanthropy. These first commercials highlight my work with the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Lowry Park Zoo, the University of Tampa and Tampa General Hospital.”

The new ads — three versions following the same script —all begin with Straz at home.

“I have lived the American Dream, from sweeping floors to job creating CEO,” he says.

A narrator then takes over, touting Straz’ “leadership and vision,” “millions given to the Straz Center, Lowry Park Zoo, University of Tampa, leadership at Tampa General Hospital” and calling him “a strong leader with a heart for service.”

The commercial then cuts between different Tampa residents who say Straz “has made a difference as a private citizen, just imagine what he can do as our mayor.”

The only difference between the three ads is the cast during the final 10 seconds.

“We had so many people participate in filming we wanted to use as many people as possible in the finished commercial,” said campaign manager Mark Hanisee.

Hanisee said the campaign would run for several weeks. The TV buy will place the ads on Tampa broadcast and cable networks, while the digital buy is a data-driven digital campaign targeted to reach high frequency municipal voters.

“We are already getting a great reception throughout the community and we are finding that people are very curious about David Straz, his background and why he’s running for mayor. We believe our advertising will start filling in the blanks and help people understand the tremendous impact he has already had on Tampa through the private sector,” Hanisee said. “Just imagine what he can do as our mayor.”

Straz is one of eight candidates running to succeed Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn next year. He faces former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, District 4 City Councilman Harry Cohen, Michael Hazard, LaVaughn King, Topher Morrison, District 1 City Councilman Mike Suarez and former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik.

As of June 30, Straz had already self-funded to the tune of $1.05 million and had about $1 million on hand. Castor is in a distant second with nearly $360,000 raised between her campaign and committee, followed by Cohen at about $250,000 and Turanchik at $232,000.

The first version of the ad is below.

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.

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