How boring: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is poised to skate into a second term next March without a serious challenge. So let's forget about 2015 and consider instead what 2018 means for Mayor Bob.
Barring a giant surprise over the next few months, either Rick Scott at that point will be winding down his second term as governor or Democrat Gov. Charlie Crist will be preparing to run for re-election. Which scenario would the ambitious Buckhorn prefer? If he harbors any ambitions to be governor, he clearly is better off if Crist loses this year.
And that may explain why Buckhorn has been so conspicuously unenthusiastic about Crist's campaign for governor. Check the mayor out today on Bay News 9, during a special edition of Political Connections featuring a joint appearance by Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
While Kriseman, a fellow Democrat, enthusiastically backs Crist, Buckhorn says he intends to stay neutral in the governor's race.
"I am staying on the sidelines with that one. I have to work with both Republican governors and Republican legislators," said Buckhorn, 55. "This governor has been particularly good to Tampa. I am appreciative of that. While I don't agree with all his policies, I am going to be someone who is going to work with Republicans and Democrats because it's in the best interests of my city to do that."
Should Mayor Bob run for statewide office after leading Tampa, he likely will have to explain some of his less-true-blue Democrat behavior during this election cycle. Kriseman endorsed Democratic state Rep. Perry Thurston for attorney general last week, but Buckhorn is staying neutral in that race, too — sort of. He already has been part of a host committee for a re-election fundraiser for Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi (the same fundraiser for which Bondi postponed an execution to accommodate).
"I am a good Democrat. Pam is a personal friend, I've known her for 25 years. I like her a lot. She's a hometown person," Buckhorn said.
Kriseman and Buckhorn discuss a host of issues on Political Connections today on Bay News 9, including regional cooperation, economic development, law enforcement and, of course, the future of the Rays. We asked them to predict where the Rays will be playing in 10 years.
No idea, said Buckhorn.
Kriseman predicted they will remain in St. Petersburg, and cited recent comments by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg as evidence that his administration is making more progress dealing with the team than his predecessor, Mayor Bill Foster, did.
"What you heard Stu Sternberg say was that he has confidence in our discussions moving forward, which is very different from what you've heard before," said Kriseman, 51. "And you even heard Bud Selig not throwing missiles and bombs about this relationship being broken and there being a problem here. The reason you didn't hear that from him is that there has been progress in our discussions."
Gay marriage views
Rep. David Jolly's declaration last week that he supports gay couples' right to marry made us wonder what other Tampa Bay area Republicans are thinking after a judge overturned Florida's same-sex marriage ban.
Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland issued a statement through his spokeswoman. "We have decided not to comment on the court decision as of now since we haven't had our constituents reach out in concern. However, Congressman Ross believes in traditional marriage."
Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota said through a spokesman: "Rep. Buchanan supports Florida's constitutional amendment approved by voters defining marriage between a man and a woman."
Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor did not respond to a question.
A spokesman for Rep. Rich Nugent of Spring Hill declined to comment. Nugent has backed legislation calling for a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Tracking Jeb's path
Jeb Bush continues to dip in and out of the national conversation about the 2016 presidential field, and a Quinnipiac poll last week in Florida underscored his appeal as he beat all other Republicans.
But a recent business move called into question his intentions. Bush and some Wall Street partners created an investment firm, Britton Hill Holdings, that is hunting for riches in oil and gas. As Bloomberg News first reported, the firm used backing from a Chinese conglomerate to acquire a stake in a Connecticut shipping startup seeking to "capitalize on surging Asian demand for U.S. shale oil and gas."
The development caused much speculation about Bush's intentions, and some commentators rushed to say it was a sign he will not run for president. Some in Florida remained convinced that Bush has never really intended to, yet he's at least considering a run.