TAMPA — On the eve of a live televised debate in the mayor's race, Ed Turanchik endorsed Bob Buckhorn, saying his former rival is "best prepared to lead Tampa."
"Bob has a strong and a clear platform for our city, grounded in solid public policies," Turanchik said Monday. "I am fully convinced that Bob is ready to go work on day one to move our city forward."
Turanchik, a former Hillsborough County commissioner who finished fourth in the March 1 election, met with Buckhorn and Rose Ferlita before deciding which candidate to support in the March 22 runoff.
Ferlita's warmth, sincerity and commitment to Tampa is impressive, Turanchik said, but her "platform remains unfocused, and her agenda and priorities relatively unshaped."
"I have not seen Rose put forward a clear and compelling vision for our future, one that can drive our priorities, efforts and resources," he said. "I'm not saying that those things can't come, but they're not here at the moment."
Ferlita, a former county commissioner and Tampa City Council member, did not respond to requests for comment, but did tell voters on a telephone town hall meeting Monday evening that she would soon unveil a more detailed agenda.
"I am going to expand on my building blocks," she said. "As a matter of fact, this week, we're going to roll it out, and it's going to all be tied to fiscal responsibility."
Turanchik said he asked both candidates how they would run their administrations, how they would spend their time, what their priorities were, what they wanted to achieve in their first 100 days and how they would measure their progress in areas such as jobs, transportation and the economy.
A longtime transportation advocate, Turanchik said he also questioned both "on their commitment to a refreshed transportation initiative" to replace a tax-supported transit proposal rejected by voters in November.
Buckhorn's "transportation policy is more consistent with my own regional preferences and approach," Turanchik said.
During a conversation Saturday at the Hyde Park Starbucks, Turanchik said he told Ferlita he wanted more details about her plans.
"She indicated that she was working on more specifics, but she was not in a position to share those at that moment," he said. "I think Rose has a lot of faith in her own abilities, and she knows what's in her own mind that she wants to accomplish. But she has not articulated it in a way that I can sink my teeth into."
During her telephone town hall, in which the campaign called Tampa voters and invited them to ask questions, Ferlita said that to foster growth and business development, she would consider:
• Suspending transportation impact fees for a year or two.
• Launching a business loan program in areas that the city has designated as priorities for community redevelopment.
• Offering homeowners who expand their houses the same kind of property tax breaks that owners of historic homes can get.
The call was moderated by Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, a Ferlita supporter and longtime friend, who praised her character and experience both in the public sector as an elected official and in the private sector as a pharmacist.
"Rose Ferlita has the integrity, the courage and the business experience to be the next mayor of the city of Tampa," Ober said.
Ferlita and Buckhorn made the runoff by capturing 25.9 and 23.5 percent of the vote, respectively. Former Mayor Dick Greco had 22.6 percent, Turanchik won 19.4 percent and Tampa City Council chairman Thomas Scott got 8.6 percent.
On Saturday, Scott endorsed Buckhorn. Greco says he will not take sides in the runoff.
While falling short citywide, Turanchik said he averaged 26 percent of the vote in the precincts where his volunteers walked door-to-door. And he won four of the city's precincts with the highest voter turnout, including three in voter-rich areas of South Tampa like Hyde Park. He placed second in six more high-turnout precincts.
Buckhorn, a former Tampa City Council member, welcomed the support.
"I want him with me every step of the way, not only in terms of helping me win this election, but more importantly, helping me govern," Buckhorn said.
Asked whether that meant that Turanchik would be working in his administration, Buckhorn said, "there was no deal. There was no job offered."
"I want him to stay involved," Buckhorn said. "He knows transportation issues as well as anybody in the city. He's passionate about it. For him to sit on the sidelines over the next decade would be shameful."
At 7 p.m. today, Buckhorn and Ferlita meet in a live, televised debate sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9.
The forum will be broadcast live on Bay News 9 and will be available on Bay News 9 On Demand, Channel 342 on Bright House, after the event.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.