As mayoral debates go, Tuesday night was going to be exciting.
Okay, sure, without former Mayor Dick Greco onstage at Blake High this time around, there was much less chance for a talk-of-the-water-cooler moment the next morning. No one was likely to say "panty raid."
The additional loss of an earnest Tom Scott and a wonky-smart Ed Turanchik after the primary definitely thinned things out. (But look — there was Scott in the audience, looking relaxed sans tie, like he was thoroughly enjoying himself.)
Still, this was going to be good. Finally, finally, it looked like Rose Ferlita was going to get really specific about what a Mayor Ferlita administration would look like.
At last, after all these months of campaigning, with early voting just days away, Ferlita would detail her plans for leading Tampa. She was going to differentiate herself from Bob Buckhorn, who can go through the details of his own plan like multiplication tables — specifics on economic development, downtown, the 1-4 connector, the port, USF, jobs, you name it. Finally, we'd hear what set Ferlita apart.
Just not now.
Tomorrow, Ferlita said. Sure, she talked about reorganizing and tax abating and streamlining, but tomorrow, that's when she'd build on those "bold building blocks" of hers. The election's two whole weeks away — what's the rush?
And was this starting to remind anyone else of the cartoon guy who will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today?
Why would Ferlita, a smart and seasoned politician, not come out swinging at a live televised post-primary debate, with audiences there and at home actually paying attention?
There were some watchable moments. There was the unabashed lovefest for the current officeholder, Pam Iorio, and imagine what an endorsement from her could get you vote-wise.
"I applaud her," said Ferlita of Iorio's economic stewardship. "She took over in difficult times and she managed it with grace," said Buckhorn.
Ferlita took aim at him for how successful and qualified to run the city he was, having made only $7,000 in the private sector. Buckhorn countered nicely that it was a family decision for him to not take on any clients last year.
Asked about a campaign manager who quit and said Ferlita was at times intense and irrational, she talked about the passion she brings to the table. Though there were a couple of tense moments — one when she said she had been taken out of context in the press — she did not lose her cool.
There was a nice (if sappy) moment when Buckhorn called his kids his greatest accomplishment, and when Rose said hers was living up to her parents' expectations. Asked about the lack of privacy in running a city, Ferlita got a nice laugh when she said her two rescue dogs have no major privacy concerns.
A polished Buckhorn did his smooth channeling of — is it Clinton or Kennedy? I never can decide — and his line about giving Tampa "its wings" that makes me start humming Bette Midler. (Unsolicited advice to him from the cheap seats: Please stop saying "paradigm." Also "Rosie.")
And for Ferlita? Specifics, please.
I know, they're coming. Just you wait.