Bob Buckhorn’s first pitch — Part 2
After throwing out the first pitch before Friday’s Tampa Bay Rays game, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he had a “sense that, perhaps over the summer, there may be some movement” on where the Rays will play in the long run.
That prompted a little what-gives-him-that-idea-anyway reaction, so on Tuesday, we asked him.
He responded, a couple of things.
First, he said, there’s “the amount of communication that’s taken place.”
“Between the Rays going to the Hillsborough County Commission and the Rays going to (the) Pinellas (County Commission), I think that’s a good sign,” he said. “I think that means folks are talking and there was not any blowback as a result of the Rays going over there and talking to those respective bodies.”
He also expects the St. Petersburg mayor's race to play a role. So far, Mayor Bill Foster, former council member Kathleen Ford and former council member and state legislator Rick Kriseman are heading for an Aug. 27 primary.
“Voters are going to want to know what course of action will be over the next couple of years, and I think there will be increasing pressure on all of the candidates to stake out a position,” Buckhorn said. “And so all of those factors combined, I think, provide some opportunities for more conversations to take place.”
Buckhorn said he didn’t talk about the topic when he had lunch earlier this month with Kriseman, but he won’t be the one who brings it up, anyway.
“It’s going to come up in any campaign forum that they go to, and rightfully so. … Having lived through it I know how those campaigns can change the dynamic. It can require people to take positions,” said Buckhorn, a career political consultant who ran his own campaign, was the only paid aide when Sandy Freedman ran for mayor and managed the Hillsborough County piece of President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign.
“The status quo is not going to be an answer,” he said. “Folks in St. Pete are going to want to know what the path forward is. and they’re going to, I think, base their votes on what that answer is on both the Lens and on baseball. Those are the two issues that will dominate and suck the air out of that campaign over there.”
Already, it's part of the campaign discussion.
In April, Kriseman said he supported a proposal by council member Charlie Gerdes to let the Rays examine stadium sites in Hillsborough County if the team pays a fee. (The team wants out of Tropicana Field, but its contract with the city ties it to the Trop until 2027.)
Foster has said the Rays are committed by contract to the Trop and refuses to let them look across the bay.
Ford has said she would not support Gerdes' proposal because it could undermine the city's legal position if the team broke the agreement.
And does Buckhorn have a rooting interest in what position he wants St. Petersburg's mayor and would-be mayors to take?
“No,” he said, “I just want what’s in the best interest of the region.”