Sunday, February 25, 2018
Politics

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn welcomes GOP convention

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Tuesday welcomed the Republican National Convention to his city, saying "your faith and trust in us is much appreciated."

In his three-minute speech, Buckhorn skipped over the fact that he's a Democrat, instead greeting "my fellow Americans who have traveled from every corner of this great country to be here."

He recalled Tampa's working-class roots, saying it was built by immigrant cigar makers and longshoremen.

Then he touted the city's economic vigor, its connection to MacDill Air Force Base and its future, which he said lies with science, technology and medicine.

"I can tell you with certainty that we are open for business and we are ready to embrace all that the future holds," Buckhorn said. "I trust you will fall in love with our city, just as I do every day. Have a great week in Tampa."

Also speaking was Al Austin, the Tampa developer who led the effort to bring the convention to town.

"You may know that we were finalists for the last two conventions," which ended up going to New York and St. Paul, Minn., Austin told delegates. "Apparently, the third time is the charm."

With more than 15,000 journalists covering the convention, Austin said he is "pleased that Tampa Bay will no longer be the best-kept secret in the world."

"For me, to stand on this stage, in this city, is the realization of a long-time dream," he said.

Austin, 83, who was a delegate at the GOP's last Florida convention, 1972 in Miami Beach, and a delegate or alternate at every convention since then, said the RNC coming to Tampa will stimulate the economy and "have a significant impact on the future of our region."

"Because you chose us, thousands of people have the opportunity to get to know our people, our businesses, our attractions and our food," he said. "You're creating jobs for caterers, waiters, taxi drivers, and so many more Floridians. And you're filling up hotel rooms that often sit empty after the summer tourism season ends."

Most important, Austin said, "come back often."

The compliments went both ways.

"We're just thrilled to be here and we're humbled by your hospitality," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said.

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