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Political intrigue in Tampa's own House of Cards

Behind-the-scenes lobbying. Rumors of powerful endorsements and political retribution. And the intriguing question of whether some of the voters will factor in that a candidate once implied they were butt-kissers.

It's all there in Tampa's own House of Cards.

Next week's election of the City Council chair is why some people love politics the way Netflix bingers can't wait to find out what that crafty President Frank Underwood will get up to next.

You may be wondering why there would be any intrigue whatsoever to this local post. The council chair — whom council members elect from their ranks — runs meetings and is generally the grownup in charge. This person does not get a fat salary bump, and it's more work for their staff. So besides a nice title and a gavel handy for quieting crowds gone unruly over the latest alcohol zoning, why else might you want it?

Ambition, perhaps.

The story, so far: A goodly number of council members are said to have designs on the mayor's office. Meanwhile, the current and term-limited occupant, Bob Buckhorn, is said to be mulling a 2018 run for governor and, the theory goes, could leave early. So who becomes mayor? Council chair, that's who, sitting pretty as already-mayor should they plan to run for the job, and earning a mayoral salary to boot.

What's the lineup for mayor looking like, at least theoretically? Council members Harry Cohen, Yvonne Yolie Capin and Mike Suarez are oft-mentioned as potential contenders. Lisa Montelione is off to run for the Legislature, youngest member Guido Maniscalco is still considered new, and Frank Reddick has said he is not interested.

Pencils ready for next Thursday's meeting intrigue?

Reddick, the current chair, was elected last year in a narrow surprise vote that deposed elder statesman Charlie Miranda, who had the job for four years.

Reddick has notably butted heads with the mayor over the creation of a citizens review board to oversee police cases, during which he said "some on the council" buckled to political pressure "and did not make the right choice." He also said he, unlike colleagues less inclined to challenge mayoral authority, was "not going to be a butt-kisser."

Reddick, the council's lone black member, this week said his fellow board members know he is "very passionate" about whom he represents. Interestingly, he previously suggested the chair position be rotated. Now, he says if council members feel he's done "a decent job, a respectful job" and vote him in again, he will serve.

Plot twist: Might there be a move to return Miranda? This week, he told me that if nominated, he would say no thank you. Might he be eyeing that mayoral seat? He only notes the election is not until 2019.

Notes on others in the mix: Cohen is the current vice chair. Capin says she wouldn't mind the job, though she likes the idea of drawing the name from a hat. Says Suarez, the swing vote that elected Reddick and ended Miranda's run: "We're all capable of being chair."

Rumors circulated that the police union was lobbying, though officials there could not be reached. Two council members said they heard that the mayor said if Reddick got chair, Buckhorn wouldn't run for governor after all, presumably to thwart any edge a sitting mayor gets — though the consensus was Buckhorn would be highly unlikely to let this tempest interfere with any larger ambitions.

Buckhorn said he did not say that and loses no sleep over the next council chair. In fact, he sounded disappointingly un-Underwood-like: "Obviously, Frank (Reddick) and I have had our differences, but it never stopped us from getting good policy done." And: "I can work with any one of them."

(He did, however, confirm a separate rumor that, when asked about speculation on a potential Hillary Clinton appointment rather than a gubernatorial run, he has joked that he'd really like to be ambassador to Ireland.)

If you plan to catch the action next week, don't be late. For all the pregame intrigue, it happens fast — last year, literally in a minute. Traditionally, candidates and their colleagues engage in no debate. We'll just have to read the plot between the lines.

Sue Carlton can be reached at carlton@tampabay.com.

Political intrigue in Tampa's own House of Cards 03/31/16 [Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2016 9:56pm]
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