Thursday, February 22, 2018
Politics

Shadows of Bob Buckhorn, Rick Baker hang over St. Pete mayoral race

As St. Petersburg's mayoral primary approaches, we keep hearing rumblings of BBE.

Buckhorn and Baker Envy.

"I look at (Tampa Mayor Bob) Buckhorn across the bay and you know what he's trying to accomplish," mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman said during an interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board last week. "You know what he's trying to do. (Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick) Baker was the same way. You knew what Rick Baker wanted to get done. (City) Council knew what Rick Baker wanted to get done. And because everybody knew the direction he wanted to take us, including his staff and his administration, everybody was working in the same direction."

Kriseman doesn't see the same thing in Mayor Bill Foster.

"He doesn't take a position. He kind of leaves it up to City Council so that everyone will still like him," Kriseman said.

It's a common knock against Foster, that somehow he's smaller than the city he leads or at least smaller than his St. Petersburg predecessor, Baker, and counterpart across the bay, Buckhorn. Foster brushes it off as merely a reflection of his low-key leadership style.

"It has been a criticism that maybe my humility gets in the way, but you know what? I'm going to stand by this record that I have," Foster said in an interview airing today on Political Connections on Bay News 9. "I have a different style than my predecessor. I'm not a guy that worries about who gets credit."

Talking to the Times editorial board, front-runner Foster had a few more seemingly disparaging comparisons to Baker: "I don't travel with an entourage. I don't have camera crews. … I don't have to do a press conference for everything. I just want to see results. I'm performance-driven."

On Political Connections, airing at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., Foster also discusses the Pier, his succession plan for departing senior administrators, mass transit and his rocky relationship with former police Chief Goliath Davis.

Watch the debate

Missed the only televised St. Petersburg mayoral primary debate last week? No worries. Bay News 9 will replay the Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 "conversation with the candidates" today at 11:30 a.m. and Bright House customers can find it on Ch. 342 (Bay News 9 on Demand).

Senate intrigue

Ex-Rep. Mike Fasano's appointment as Pasco County tax collector didn't just end his legislative career. It also put an end to an intriguing scenario that he might have sought a return to the Senate by taking on fellow Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, next year — which would have improved Sen. Jack Latvala's chances of becoming Pinellas County's first Senate president.

Fasano shares Latvala's moderate philosophy and he's very popular in Pasco, so Simpson would have been in big trouble. But Fasano says Simpson is "doing a wonderful job" and never seriously considered a Senate run, though he said there was "a big push by some people."

Simpson has heard the story that a privately commissioned poll showed Fasano with a huge lead over him. Simpson calls that "a myth," but he'd like to know why anyone would have wanted Fasano to take him on. "I would love an answer to that question," Simpson said.

Simpson and other GOP senators must choose between Latvala and Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, for the presidency in 2016. The race is described as close. "It's basically tied," Latvala said.

Simpson insists he's neutral even though Negron held a fundraiser for him.

Another Tampa Bay senator who won't publicly take sides is Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. "I have" made a commitment, Brandes said, "but I don't want to get into the inner workings of Senate leadership."

Latvala aggressively backed Brandes' rival, Jim Frishe, in 2012 and Negron attended Brandes' election night party; Negron and Brandes also share libertarian views on some issues.

Brandes dismissed the idea that he should support Latvala because they are both from Tampa Bay. "You should support people you're philosophically aligned with," Brandes said. "You've got to think statewide."

Damon vs. Bush?

Actor Matt Damon has held himself out as a champion for public schools and higher pay for teachers, but recently told the Guardian he will be enrolling his children in private school after moving to California: "Sending our kids in my family to private school was a big, big, big deal. I'm trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system."

Jeb Bush saw the comments last week and took to Twitter: "Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else?"

Steve Bousquet and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this week's Buzz.

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