TAMPA - The pirate fantasy that occupied Tampa on Saturday was not without a political edge. Along with earrings and scarves, scores of Gasparilla pirates donned buttons promoting Gasparilla King Ted DeLaVergne as Tampa's next mayor. The buttons, "Get Ahead with Ted! - Mayor," did not daunt the current mayor, Sandy Freedman, whose surrender to the pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla was a day-long affair.
"Ted told me it was a joke and not to worry, that he was a supporter," Freedman said Monday. "It was just all in good fun. I have got campaign checks from (Gasparilla Captain) Jim Warren and a lot of the Krewe members, and they're supporters."
Freedman, who faces no challengers, has amassed more than $150,000 in campaign contributions.
DeLaVergne, a real-estate adviser, said he definitely will not challenge Freedman.
"I'm obviously very flattered by the gesture," he said. "It's just some friends I have over the years. I guess they think it would be a good idea."
Warren, captain of the private club, said the buttons were made as a joke by a few close friends of DeLaVergne, who did consider running for mayor in 1987.
"I think it was largely in jest, although there are probably some folks who would love to see him run," Warren said. "Just like no incumbent gets 100 percent of the electorate to vote for him, there's always some people who think there's someone else who could get more done to their way of thinking."
The all-white, all-male Krewe includes some of the city's most powerful and influential businessmen, some of whom have been known to grumble about Freedman's leadership. Freedman came to her position not from the business world, but from the City Council.
During the last mayoral election, some members of the business community pushed DeLaVergne to make a bid for the mayor's office, but he declined, Warren said.
"There were some members of the business community that were interested in finding a business-person candidate, and it was actually rather seriously discussed with Ted," he said. "He was in the middle of a career change at that point and felt he needed to get his career in real estate going."
This time, DeLaVergne is "absolutely not a candidate," Warren said.