March column: Buckhorn calls running for state CFO 'an option'

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, shown at a dedication along the Tampa Riverwalk earlier this month, said, "I love coming to work every day." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Mayor Bob Buckhorn, shown at a dedication along the Tampa Riverwalk earlier this month, said, "I love coming to work every day." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published December 23 2016
Updated December 23 2016

There's been insider chatter in Tampa lately that Mayor Bob Buckhorn, facing a potentially tough primary for governor in 2018, could switch his sights to the race for chief financial officer.

To which Buckhorn this week said, in effect, yes and no. Sort of.

What he actually said:

"Certainly it is an option, but it's not an option because I fear competition (in the governor's race). It does offer an alternative, but not an alternative that I have spent a lot of time thinking about recently. If people are out there blabbering, it's not because they've had a conversation with me."

Buckhorn has said he'll make a decision on his political future early in 2017. Not trying for statewide office at all is still an option, in part because of family considerations, he said.

"I've got a job that I love, that I've trained for most of my adult life. I'm perfectly happy finishing out this term and setting this city on a new chapter. I love coming to work every day."

In the CFO race he'd likely have at least one Democratic competitor — former state Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate, who says he's "about 90 percent" to enter the race, and will also announce early in 2017.

Ring, an investor, has a fortune that would allow him to contribute significantly to his own campaign — $12.5 million, according to his 2015 financial disclosure form — but he isn't as well known as one of Buckhorn's likely competitors in the governor primary, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

Is Frank Florida's oldest? Not quite

"Apparently I'm tied with a mayor out of Valparaiso. We're both 87," said Hillsborough Clerk of Court Pat Frank, whose press spokesman, Tom Scherberger, just did some research to find out if she's the state's oldest elected official.

Actually, Frank is a month younger than Bruce Arnold, mayor of Valparaiso for 61 years. He was born in September 1929, she in November. But when you're 87, who's counting months?

Scherberger acknowledged his research isn't definitive. He couldn't find any authoritative list of elected officials' ages, so he contacted the League of Cities and learned about Arnold.

John Land, mayor of Apopka for 61 years, would have beaten them both, but lost his last campaign for re-election in 2014 at age 92, then died shortly afterward.

"I've never shied away from saying what my age is," Frank said. "I'm proud of it. It was an issue in the campaign and I'm glad people said age shouldn't be an impediment if you're doing a good job."

New council member Viera quits eHarmony

Now that he's on the Tampa City Council, Luis Viera, who was already a pretty eligible single guy, is going to take down his eHarmony profile.

"I forgot I even had that," he said, laughing, when asked about it this week. "I haven't looked at it for months."

He said he has no need for it, and will take it down "for privacy reasons."

Party chair Tamargo easily wins re-election

Deborah Tamargo easily won re-election as Hillsborough County Republican Party chairman this week despite a challenge from Jonathan Torres, who had support from local elected Republicans he helped in their campaigns.

Tamargo won 94-58 in a vote of the county GOP executive committee Tuesday night.

Torres, a digital marketing professional who has done extensive political work, was backed by Reps. Ross Spano of Dover and Dan Raulerson of Plant City. Sen. Dana Young of Tampa wouldn't say whom she backed, but mentioned that Torres helped with her campaign.

Torres contended that interest and participation in the party has waned during Tamargo's year as chairwoman.

She denied that, saying she has increased community outreach and made the party more open and inclusive. Backers said Tamargo can devote full time to the job and has done so.

Tamargo won the office last year, narrowly defeating a last-minute bid by Debbie Cox-Roush after the former chairman, Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon, unexpectedly announced he wouldn't run again.

Contact William March at [email protected]