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Election of Mayor Bob Buckhorn a boost for Florida Democrats

Tampa Mayor-elect Bob Buckhorn gives Democrats clout in the biggest city in Florida’s biggest battleground region.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Tampa Mayor-elect Bob Buckhorn gives Democrats clout in the biggest city in Florida’s biggest battleground region.

Bob Buckhorn, a perennial also-ran in Hillsborough County, was elected mayor of Tampa last week, and that's a very big deal for Democrats in Florida.

Buckhorn is a centrist Democrat, savvy and very ambitious. It's probably absurd to think of him running for governor in three years, but as mayor of the biggest city in Florida's biggest battleground region he is automatically a top-tier member of the Democratic bench of potential statewide candidates.

What's remarkable after the GOP wave of 2010 is how thin that bench is. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler are the only Democrats left in high-profile executive roles until Buckhorn takes office. Former state Sens. Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber have lower profiles out of office, as will outgoing Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.

There's chatter that Alex Sink is seriously considering challenging Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, as is state Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate. Rod Smith insists he's not interested, and U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Westin seem pretty content in Washington.

Given the Democrats' slim pickings in Florida, Buckhorn actually looks like an emerging giant. Of course, he now has ample opportunity to botch things up, too.

Buckhorn will be on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Scooter explained

With lots of chatter in GOP circles about newly elected Republican Party of Florida chairman David Bitner suddenly requiring a motorized scooter to get around, Bitner on Friday decided he needed to send party activists an e-mail explaining his condition — and stressing that it's not infringing on his job. An excerpt:

Friends,

Recently, many of you may have seen me around the Capitol and at meetings across the state in a motorized scooter. As some of you may know, I have suffered from diabetes for the better part of my adult life. I recently learned I now have diabetic neuropathy, which is a common and curable complication of diabetes and I am receiving the best medical care. As a precautionary measure, I am also going through a series of tests to rule out any other possible issues.

While the news was unexpected, it is far from limiting my ability to serve as your Chairman. Anyone who has been working with me in the past few weeks knows how difficult it has been to keep up with me — on a motorized scooter or not. In fact, I think I'm even moving faster these days.

Fundraiser's new job

Likely presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty landed a top Florida fundraiser, Ann Herberger of Miami, as a senior fundraising consultant. In Florida she'll be working along with fundraiser Gretchen Picotte in Orlando. A longtime Jeb Bush fundraiser, Herberger worked for Mitt Romney in 2008.

"I love governors because they are the CEOs of the states, and the buck stops with them. I think Tim Pawlenty is the right guy at the right time," she said.

A prop rejected

The immigration debate is getting turned on its head on the state House floor. State Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach, has been wearing his passport around the Capitol to protest a watered-down version of an Arizona-style immigration bill working through the House. Critics say it essentially would require police to start checking people's papers.

But under House rules, members aren't allowed to bring props or placards and House Rules Chairman Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said asked Garcia to lose the prop. He did.

Times/Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

Winner

of the week

The GOP Legislature. It effortlessly overrode two bills vetoed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Legislative leaders can now get massive campaign donations directly given to their "leadership funds" rather than launder them through the state party. Prosecutor Willie Meggs had his hat handed to him in trying to convict the former House speaker of doing what many legislators thought was merely standard operating procedure. Sure is nice to legislate without checks and balances.

Losers

of the week

Willie Meggs. The state attorney from Tallahassee, above, wasted time and public money thinking it's a crime for a legislator to funnel $6 million of taxpayer money into the state budget for a secret airplane hangar for a major political

supporter.

Bob Richburg. The former community college president sold out his friends, agreeing to testify against Ray Sansom and Jay Odom, and it turned out he didn't need to because Meggs' case fell apart before he even testified.

Election of Mayor Bob Buckhorn a boost for Florida Democrats 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 7:35pm]
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