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Experience runs deep in field of contenders for Tampa mayor

Of all the local elections in Tampa Bay, none is as important as Tampa's mayoral race.

Sorry, St. Petersburg, but Tampa is the heart of this politically crucial region. At least in perception, the mayor of Tampa is essentially the mayor of Tampa Bay. The highest-profile politician in the biggest battleground region in America's biggest battleground state is courted by presidential candidates and automatically becomes a future contender for governor or United States senator. (Well, probably not if he's 77-year-old Dick Greco).

So any Tampa Bay resident would be wise to pay attention. We all have a stake. While St. Petersburg residents last year bemoaned their mayoral candidate field, every candidate for Tampa mayor is credible, well prepared and savvy — though hardly a fresh face.

Check out Political Connections on Bay News 9 over the next couple of weeks and take the measure of these contenders. Today's show at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. has former City Council member Bob Buckhorn and former County Commission and City Council member Rose Ferlita.

Ferlita highlighted a "community service record," saying she'd had "some challenges and successes in terms of a business owner, a pharmacist, a neighborhood civic association president and on to City Council and County Commission."

And she dismissed detractors who say she lacks the temperament to be an effective mayor.

"I get very focused, and I get very serious. That's what people elected me to do, so I think it's funny when people say, 'Hey, Rose has an anger management problem.' No, Rose is focused on the job that you elected her to do," she said, noting a new year's resolution to "practice smiling."

Buckhorn sought to contrast himself to former Mayor Greco. "The jobs of the future are never going to be created by the politicians of the past or the policies of the past," he said.

On the City Council, one of Buckhorn's highest-profile causes was cracking down on lap-dancing establishments, and he sounded like a politician who understands it did not do him much good politically. "Do I regret it? I think I could have done a better job framing that discussion. I mean that wasn't me trying to impose my moral code on someone else. It was merely a quality-of-life issue that went along with the other quality of life ordinances that I passed," he said.

Talking points

Could Rick Scott's private-sector brand of management be proving less efficient than the public sector? A memo last week from Gov. Scott's communications director certainly doesn't sound like it will speed things along in Florida government:

From: Burgess, Brian

To: Agency Communication Directors

Subject: Public Appearances / Speeches / Etc.

Just want to reiterate that neither agency heads nor their respective communications offices, or any agency personnel should be making public appearances or speeches without prior notification and approval of EOG.

If there are any upcoming on the schedules, please let me know so we can ensure we're on the same page.

Senate race's star power

Nick Loeb, a 35-year-old Delray Beach resident and scion to the Loeb-Rhodes banking fortune, is talking about running as a Republican for the Senate. Normally we wouldn't take much note of someone who couldn't even win a seat on the Delray Beach City Commission, but something sets this guy apart, and it's not just his net worth: His girlfriend, Sofía Vergara, an actor on Modern Family, is said to be encouraging him.

Loeb ran for the state Legislature 2009, but dropped out.

Crying time again

John Boehner's blubbering seems to be catching on. At Saturday's Florida GOP gathering, outgoing GOP chairman John Thrasher got teary on the podium. So did new chairman Dave Bitner. And chairman candidate Joe Gruters.

Winners

of the week

Mike Haridopolos. The Republican Senate president from Melbourne already is launching his U.S. Senate campaign for 2012 and, as Senate president, getting a head start on other contenders. That old curse that legislative leaders never win statewide elections died with Marco Rubio's win. Dave Bitner. The new GOP chairman won with a grass roots campaign and a personal appeal that convinced folks he was the strongest statesman.

Loser

of the week

Tony DiMatteo. Bad enough the Pinellas Republican state committeeman was crushed in the race for Florida GOP chairman, suspected of dirty campaigning. After losing, he was the only candidate who didn't join the winner in a show of unity. Stay classy, Tony.

Experience runs deep in field of contenders for Tampa mayor 01/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 17, 2011 10:39am]
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