One of the more popular parlor games for Tampa Bay political junkies is plotting the future of some of our more ambitious and high-profile mayors. There's Republican St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, surely rooting for Democrat Alex Sink to vacate her chief financial officer perch to run for governor or U.S. Senate. And Republican Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, who is among those wondering if C.W. Bill Young will ever retire from Congress.
Then there's Democratic Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, whose term ends in 2011 and whose profile as a brainy, thoroughly competent leader from Florida's most important battleground — and a woman to boot — gets her mentioned frequently as an attractive statewide candidate in the mold of Sink. The problem? Unlike Sink and most other potential statewide candidates, Iorio would have to explain in a primary why she almost never lifts a finger to help fellow Democrats.
Check her out on today's Political Connections on Bay News 9, where she refuses to discuss Republican Buddy Johnson, her controversial successor in the Hillsborough elections office. Nor would Iorio consider endorsing fellow Democrat and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky for elections supervisor.
"I'm not a very partisan person," said Iorio, who stayed far away from John Kerry in 2004 but did endorse Barack Obama in late May, once he had the nomination all but won. "If that's the rap on me, it's true because I believe that when you are elected to local office particularly, you represent everyone and you're supposed top be a problem solver."
Busansky said Iorio talked to her for an hour and half about the job and "was great," but she hadn't expected an Iorio endorsement. "She's been consistent about not making endorsements, though I don't think it helps her," Busansky said. "I think she's probably running for something."
Hillsborough Democratic chairman Michael Steinberg speculated that Iorio has her eyes on the potential county mayor seat, which would make nonpartisanship a strong selling point. Iorio downplayed her interest.
Check out Iorio on Political Connections at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.
The fight for Florida
Don't count Gov. Charlie Crist among those Republicans predicting Florida is a lock for John McCain: "I think it's going to be tight," he told Buzz. "These are two strong candidates, and I don't know which way it goes."
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe agreed. "Florida is going to be highly competitive," he said, noting polls showing a tight race. "We are going to build a terrific organization in Florida," and pour in "a lot of resources and a lot of time."
Obama creates some healing
Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and about 40 of Clinton's most loyal Hispanic supporters met privately in Washington last week as part of the former rivals' unity effort. Ana Cruz of Tampa, who has been skeptical of Obama's outreach to Clinton backers, was there along with former Ambassador Luis Lauredo of Miami. Cruz said a gracious, humble Obama impressed the gathering and that Clinton and her supporters basically told Obama to tell them how they can help him win.
Candidates, meet the Times
Learn how the Times' news team plans to cover your political campaign, how the editorial board makes its candidate recommendations and paid advertising helps get your message to voters. The Times is holding a series of informal meetings for qualified candidates for Congress, the Legislature and local offices to learn about those issues and more. Each gathering will include representatives from news, the editorial board and advertising to brief candidates and answer questions. The schedule:
Pinellas: 6 p.m. Monday in the first floor auditorium at the Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Hillsborough: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Times, 1000 N Ashley Drive, Suite 700, Tampa. Pasco: 2 p.m. July 14 at the Times, 11321 U.S. 19 in Port Richey.