Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's announcement last week that he won't run for governor in 2018 means there is a good chance Florida voters will see a governor's race unlike any other for nearly two decades: one without a Democratic nominee from Tampa Bay.
Not since Jeb Bush easily defeated Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay in 1998 has Florida faced a Tampa Bay-free choice for governor, let alone have Democrats nominated someone from outside the region. In 2002, the Democratic nominee was Bill McBride of Thonotosassa. In 2006, it was Jim Davis of Tampa, followed in 2010 with Alex Sink of Thonotosassa and finally in 2014, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay is the state's largest media market and home to one in four primary voters and one in four general election voters. But you may note a clear trend with the above names: They all lost. In fact, the area hasn't produced a Democratic governor since Doyle Carlton during the Great Depression.
Tampa Bay has fared better with Republicans, with Bob Martinez and Crist, but many Democratic activists across the state have grumbled in recent years about centrist Democrats from Tampa continually losing.
Buckhorn is aware of the 0-for-4 record bay area Democrats have compiled.
"I've heard those criticisms," he said. "I think a mayor in general and a mayor with a great story that's real, that's provable, that demonstrates the ability to actually manage something in a large operation, and deliver on the results — a mayor that has support on both sides of the aisle — I think that transcends that whole criticism of the I-4 corridor. So had I run, I think I would have had a pretty compelling story to tell that would have had appeal to Democrats and Republicans and independents."
Jolly stays involved
Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Belleair Bluffs, has launched a nonprofit organization to promote policies and issues important in Pinellas County and keep his profile elevated should he decide to run against Crist again in 2018.
Brighter Future Florida Inc., funded initially with unspent campaign funds, will focus on veterans' issues, early childhood education and literacy, community health care solutions, and issues affecting local fisheries and the environment, Jolly said.
"I am committed to continuing the work I started in Congress," said Jolly, who is working as a consultant, about to start teaching at the University of South Florida and appearing regularly on national cable shows.
"Brighter Future provides a vehicle to serve our community and to work with people of all political leanings on smart public policy solutions. With Brighter Future, I also hope to demonstrate a commitment to real campaign finance reform. Instead of using unspent money on endless campaign cycles for other candidates, I felt the right thing to do was to pour the money back into the community."
Jolly has shut down his House campaign committee and super PAC and said running for the House again "is nothing I even will be considering this calendar year."
Former Crist adviser Vito Sheeley will serve as the nonprofit's senior policy adviser, and former Jolly chief of staff John David White will be a director. Brighter Future already has donated money to I Support Youth, a youth development nonprofit in St. Petersburg, Drug Free America Foundation and the Jim West Prostate Foundation supporting prostate cancer screenings.
"I applaud David and his efforts on behalf of the citizens he has served. Diverse leadership on these important issues is critical for success," said Janet Long, chairwoman of the Pinellas County Commission.
"By investing in locally based programs, Brighter Future can make a real difference in our community. David's continued commitment to taking action is the right thing to do," said council member Yolanda Roman of the city of Gulfport.
Name change needed
Crist will have to change the name of his newly formed PAC after being called out for a violation by a watchdog group.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust noted that Charlie Crist PAC violates federal law stating that "no unauthorized committee shall include the name of any candidate in its name.
"We are calling on Representative Crist to immediately fix this violation, and failure to do so in a timely fashion will result in a FACT complaint" to the Federal Election Commission, the group said. "Campaign finance laws exist to ensure that our elected officials are serving the people's interests, not using politics to promote their own self-interests."
A Crist political consultant, Kevin Cate, told the Buzz: "It was extraordinarily kind of these folks to help us get this correct, and we look forward to sharing the updated name with everyone. This PAC will help Rep. Crist help others, which is something he loves doing."
Alex Leary and Richard Danielson contributed to this week's Buzz.