Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn: No decision on running for governor until after presidential election
With U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and state Sen. Jeremy Ring both saying they're thinking of running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that, yes, he's still considering a run, too. But don't look for any decisions from him until after November:
Q — Graham's announcement that she will not run for Congress but will explore a race for governor is seen as a sign she is in. You have been considered a likely candidate in the race. How far are you on you exploration and when would you decide?
"I can't imagine that I would make a decision prior to the presidential election. I think it really is unfair for Secretary (Hillary) Clinton and Patrick Murphy to have a governor's race interjected into this cycle. It's competition for money. It's competition for attention. It's competition that they don't need."
Q — How far along are you on the work that you need to do to make that decision?
"What I do every day is the best thing that I can do to position myself if I choose to go down that path. If I run, it will be based on a record of real accomplishments — having to make real decisions and doing what a CEO does. So the best thing I can do for that story is to continue to do my job every day. I think at the end of this period, Tampa's going to have a pretty compelling story to tell in the biggest media market in the state, where just in this (primary) alone, 22 percent of the vote came out of the Tampa Bay area. So I'm just focused on doing my job."
Q — Are you having conversations with people around the state about the idea of running for governor — party people, potential donors?
"I've said from day one that we were going to explore this, we were going to look, you know, test the message, test out how Tampa's renaissance is playing, test out the messenger. So yeah, I've had ongoing conversations with people all over the state."
Q — And how are those tests going?
"Tampa's got a great story, and I love telling Tampa's story, and to the extent that Tampa's story helps me, so be it, but I think what it does demonstrate is I've got a proven record. It's not hyperbole. It's not rhetoric. It's not, you know, resolutions in the congressional record. It's a real record, creating jobs and creating opportunities and getting this city out of the depths of the recession to where we're one of the hottest real estate markets in America, and that's a great story to tell."
Q —Any pushback from party people that you stayed on the sidelines during the last governor's race?
"No, not necessarily. Because I think they understand why: that my first priority is to be the mayor of Tampa, and I had to do what was in the best interest of being the mayor of Tampa and the city of Tampa. And that medical school I was not willing to put at risk. That was too important to us, too important to USF, and had I gotten involved in a partisan governor's race at the time that probably would not have happened."
Q — What do you think of Graham's announcement?
"It was expected. That was not any surprise to me or anybody else who's been following this."
Q —If she's in, does that play a role in your decision?
"No. None whatsoever."
Q — Why are you thinking about running for governor?
"I think the state needs a change. I think we need adult leadership in Tallahassee. I think the fact that one party has controlled the legislative process for 20 years has led to some really bad decisions. And I think if I can do at the state level what we've done here, I think we could change the state of Florida. And I think people are ready for a change. They're tired of the hyper-partisanship. They're tired of the dominance by one party. I think they're looking for a more pragmatic, more practical approach to governance. And I think the one place you can do that and have an impact on the state like we've done here is from the governor's office. But I do think voters are going to expect you to have a proven track record. They're going to want to see your body of work. They don't want just another politician running for just another office. They're going to look at the candidates in this race and they're going to say, 'What have you done with your life? In your last job what did you do?' And I think that Tampa's story's going to be pretty compelling."