William March: Some make it official, even more still mulling run for Tampa mayor

Published February 2 2018
Updated February 2 2018

Former county Commissioner Ed Turanchik has announced he’ll run for Tampa mayor in 2019, but he’s not likely to be the last prominent political name in the race.

Here’s a look at where some potential candidates stand based on new interviews:

• Former police Chief Jane Castor, widely expected to run, formed a political committee that raised more than $100,000 last fall but has spent only for accounting and bank fees. Castor is still meeting with business and community leaders and hears. "We have come so far, but there is still work to be done" in transforming the urban core and reinvesting to solve "issues facing some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods." She’ll announce a decision "over the coming months."

• City Council member Harry Cohen said he’s "still very actively considering making the race, and I’ll have something to say in the next few weeks. You have to give due consideration to what you’re taking on. I don’t enter into it lightly." Insiders say Cohen will run.

• Architect Mickey Jacob said he’s "certainly still considering it" and "excited about the possibility" and expects to decide within 30 days. He’s talking to people about "where the realities lie in terms of somebody like me entering the race with no political background. I think I could be a viable candidate with unique visionary ideas for the city."

• Retired banker and philanthropist David Straz formed a committee to explore the race last fall with $250,000 of his own money plus contributions. The committee has spent $17,000, mostly on events and consulting. He said his decision process has taken longer than he expected and likely will take another month.

The committee "has concluded their work," and Straz is meeting with friends and community leaders and considering "how it will impact my time and work and whether I can make a serious difference," he said.

• Council member Mike Suarez is "absolutely looking at it very seriously, and I won’t make a decision until probably some time in the summer. You have to make sure you have people who will support you, that you can raise the money, and that you’re doing everything necessary to make sure you can win."

• Businessman Topher Morrison filed earlier this month.

Victor Crist: Switching seats is OK — sometimes

County Commissioner Victor Crist responded this week to criticism over incumbent commissioners running for different seats and restarting their term limits.

But in the process, Crist suggested that he and Commissioner Sandra Murman are in a different category from the third Republican incumbent who’s running to change seats, Ken Hagan.

Crist and Murman both hold district seats and are running for countywide seats in 2018.

Hagan served the maximum two consecutive terms in a district seat, then the maximum in a countywide seat, and now is running to move back to a district seat.

"The law and the Constitution are very clear — you are allowed two terms in a single-member district seat and two terms in a countywide seat," Crist said. "It is not uncommon or unusual for a single member district commissioner to graduate up to a countywide seat. When the rules were written years ago, it was a reasonable expectation that would happen."

Crist said having served from a district "will make me more effective in the countywide seat," a bigger job.

"Over the last 20 or 30 years, most district commissioners graduated up to countywide seats," he said.

Asked about Hagan’s move in the other direction, he responded, "I can’t comment on that. That’s not me and not what I’m doing."

Hagan couldn’t be reached for comment.

The county charter prohibits district commissioners from running for any district seat after two consecutive terms, or countywide commissioners from running for any countywide seat after two terms, but with no other restrictions or distinctions.

Democratic opponent Mariella Smith has criticized the moves, saying commissioners including Crist are perpetuating a political cronyism fueled by corporate contributions.

Crist probably can raise big money, but hasn’t yet. He has $70,905, including only $4,150 in December.

Crist said that’s because his father, 96, is on life support, and "I’ve been by his side every day. I’ll be without him soon, and I’ve been focused on trying to help him live."

When necessary, Crist said, he can raise money quickly.

Contact William March at [email protected]