TAMPA — As expected, Tampa City Council chairman and former mayoral candidate Tom Scott endorsed Bob Buckhorn for mayor on Saturday morning.
Scott said it was Buckhorn's specific plans to bring continued progress to east Tampa that solidified his decision. That, plus the pair's longtime friendship.
"As you very well know, this city has tough days ahead. We need a leader to make tough decisions," Scott said near the Tampa police District 3 headquarters, just south of the Cyrus Green Park in Belmont Heights. "After much thought and prayer, I believe in my heart that Bob Buckhorn is the most qualified candidate."
Buckhorn, a former city council member, will face Rose Ferlita, a former county commissioner, in a March 22 runoff election.
Scott said he also met with Ferlita before making his decision, but thought Buckhorn had a better, more detailed vision for Tampa's growth.
Saturday's endorsement was no surprise: A press release about an undisclosed announcement sent by Buckhorn's campaign staff Friday was titled "Tom Scott.doc." Ferlita confirmed the suspicion.
"I'm going to make you proud," Buckhorn told Scott at the news conference. "I'm going to make this city proud."
He called Scott a true warrior for east Tampa and highlighted impact fee abatements, facade projects and reinvesting money earned in community redevelopment areas into the local economy as ways to continue that legacy.
"We need to make sure what happens in Belmont Heights is the same thing that happens in Palma Ceia," Buckhorn said.
Herold Lord, who lost his bid for the District 5 city council seat, called the endorsement a winning coalition.
"Bob Buckhorn has a vision, he has a plan," Lord said at the conference. "I believe his message resonates with the residents of this community."
Ella K. Coffee, secretary of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, said if voters don't get out to the polls, the community's progress could become stagnant.
"Bob's the right man," Coffee said.
Asked about the dismal voter turnout in Tuesday's city election, Buckhorn and Scott said they would knock on doors, encourage early voting and drive people to the polls to ensure the runoff is better attended.
"Folks need to understand how high the stakes are," Buckhorn said.
He added that he was hoping for endorsements from the other two unsuccessful mayoral candidates, Ed Turanchik and Dick Greco.
Greco, a former four-term mayor, has said he would not endorse anyone.
Turanchik, a former county commissioner, said he would likely announce a decision on Monday after meeting with both Buckhorn and Ferlita.