Sunday, June 17, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Buckhorn read tea leaves in governor's race; they spell 'Morgan'

It is axiomatic that when a politician claims they want to — everybody now — "spend more time with my family," what they are actually uttering is a code phrase for: "My electoral prospects for the future are about as likely to succeed as a winter snow ski resort in Key West."

Bob Buckhorn wants to spend more time with his family.

Tampa's mayor announced days ago he had decided to forgo the 2018 race for governor because the home fires were too irresistible to deny. Clearly puttering around the garden at his Davis Islands estate is arguably preferable to Tallahassee's governor's mansion.

There is no doubt Buckhorn is a committed family man who dearly loves his wife, Dr. Catherine Lynch Buckhorn, and his two beautiful daughters Grace, 15, and 11-year-old Colleen.

He is very lucky guy. And a very astute politician, too.

But the chatter over a possible Buckhorn run for governor has been in play since hizzoner was in knickers and the mayor did precious little to disabuse anyone of his ambitions. After all, the mayor could have easily said years ago, "Forget all this inane talk about governorships, I want to (ready, set, go) spend more time with my family once my term is over in 2019." Yet not a peep.

Would Buckhorn have made a pretty good governor? Well, he's been a pretty good mayor. And his political acumen would have served him well in Tallahassee.

But politics and stand-up comedy have one thing in common. Timing is everything.

The 58-year-old Buckhorn can read the political tea leaves as well as anyone. And they weren't exactly calling out to him, "Run Bobby, run."

For starters the prohibitive Republican gubernatorial nominee is widely expected to be current Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a man with broad statewide name recognition and plenty of money available to make a very competitive run for the top job.

On the Democratic side of the ledger, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum already has announced his intention to run. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of the much beloved and respected former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, is leaning in hard to make the race along with a few others.

But the 800-pound political gorilla in the campaign is Orlando personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who has more name recognition across Florida than "Oranges."

Morgan already has proven he can win a statewide campaign based on his successful effort to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. He is brash. He loves the limelight and he is fabulously wealthy. Sound like anyone else you know?

Up until his announcement bowing out of the governor's race, Buckhorn had done very little fundraising, or made much of an effort to expand his profile beyond Tampa Bay. With Morgan lingering over the hustings, Buckhorn had to know it would have been a daunting prospect to beat the attorney. And that's probably about the time that spending more time with the family started to look pretty good.

It is probably a bit premature to put a fork in Buckhorn's political career. A first-rate retail politician, Buckhorn should be at the top of anyone's running mate list. And if Morgan were to run and win, he would need someone who understands the needs of Florida's cities as well as work with an often fractious Florida Legislature.

Or the mayor could indeed retire from public life and enjoy a very comfortable career in the private sector.

Besides, by the time Grace gets ready to head off to college, Buckhorn will be in his early 60s. He may not know this, but there is a law of nature — the older the parent, the higher the floor in the university dormitory to climb on move-in day.

And when Grace goes off to school, Buckhorn will be 65-ish. Mr. Mayor? You're going to need all the rest you can get.

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