Mary Mulhern vs. Harry Cohen?
Is term-limited Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern considering running against the colleague she sits next to on the council dais — South Tampa representative Harry Cohen?
Yes, Mulhern acknowledged Thursday, but that’s only one of a lot of things she’s looking at.
“I’m thinking about everything,” said Mulhern, who will be out of her current job after her four-year term ends next March. She’s also exploring potential opportunities in the private sector, as well as considering county or other offices scheduled to come up for election in 2016. “There’s nothing I’m not thinking about.”
How about running for mayor?
No, Mulhern said. Not that. But she said a lot of people are urging her “to stay in public service, in government.” (Mulhern had been a candidate for the Hillsborough County Commission this year, but she dropped out of that race in January. She said the demands of serving on the City Council, raising a family, running countywide and contending with a relapsing-remitting form of multiple sclerosis, which she has had for 25 years, forced a difficult decision to withdraw from the race.)
If Mulhern wants to stay on the City Council after March, she has two choices. She can run for Cohen’s seat. Or she can move — and soon — and run for another seat.
Here’s why: Tampa’s city charter limits council members to two consecutive terms in the same seat, and Mulhern is finishing her second term. But council members can switch and run for another seat under other certain circumstances. Three of the council’s seven seats are city-wide, elected by all Tampa voters. Mulhern serves in one of those city-wide seats. The remaining four are single-member district seats, elected only by voters in districts covering the north, south, east and west quadrants of the city. Cohen is finishing his first term as the representative of District 4, covering South Tampa. City-wide council members who are term-limited can only run for a seat in a single-member district, and vice versa.
The charter also requires that council candidates be city residents and registered voters for a year before taking office after the election. Moreover, council members elected to any of the four single-member districts must live in those districts for at least six months before the commencement of the term.
Mulhern lives in District 4, and to serve in any of the other three single-member districts she would have to move into it at least six months before April 1, the day when elected city officials start their terms. That means she would have to move by Oct. 1.
And what does Cohen make of the prospect of facing Mulhern at the polls?
“I hope that that won’t happen,” said Cohen, who has filed to run for re-election and already faces a challenge from South Tampa businessman Kent King. “I think we have a good relationship of collegiality here, and I hope that will continue.”
Cohen said he likes and respects Mulhern and enjoys working with her. And he does not see it being his place to give anyone advice.
“That said,” he added, “this is a democracy, and if we have differences they’ll be settled by the voters.”