Is he doing a post-election two-step? Ed Turanchik on the transportation tax, then and now

Ed Turanchik was critical of the one-penny sales tax that passed in Hillsborough County Tuesday. Will it hurt his chances to become Tampa's next mayor.
Ed Turanchik was critical of the one-penny sales tax that passed in Hillsborough County Tuesday. Will it hurt his chances to become Tampa's next mayor.
Published Nov. 8, 2018|Updated Nov. 9, 2018

Before the vote, Ed Turanchik was highly critical of the one-penny sales tax increase to fund transportation improvements that passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday.

The former Hillsborough County Commissioner and current Tampa mayoral candidate was the only candidate who didn't raise his hand when a moderator asked who supported the All For Transportation initiative at an early October forum.

Later that month, he warned of its impact on the poor and on the county's economic competitiveness.

But on Wednesday morning, Turanchik applauded the initiative's success.
"Hillsborough County voters made a GIANT step in a new and exciting direction yesterday. They decided to invest in transportation and schools by a big margin," read his message on his Facebook page and Twitter account.

Is Turanchik doing a post-election two-step?

"Ya think?," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn mayor tweeted after an initial version of this story posted online.

Turanchik confirmed he voted against the tax, but initially didn't want to go into the details of his decision.

"It doesn't matter anymore. I didn't think it was an appropriate way," Turanchik said. "Just a variety of reasons."

After the Hillsborough County Commission voted to cancel a public-private partnership with the operator of the MacDill passenger ferry represented by Turanchik later Thursday, he called back the Tampa Bay Times.

"You want to know why I voted no? I don't trust local government officials to do the right thing," he said.

Earlier, he had said his vote against and criticism of the tax measure was "water over the dam" and wouldn't impact his quest to replace term-limited Buckhorn next year.

After the ferry vote, tough, Turanchik bluntly reassessed its potential impact.

"Will it affect my mayor's race? It doesn't even matter to me. It's just about good government," he said.

The voters, he said, have spoken.

"It boiled down to this: I was not wiling to trust unnamed future politicians of spending $15 billion well. But I do trust the voter's judgement. Now it's up to us to say if that trust was worth it," Turanchik said.

Turanchik said his pre-Nov. 6 stance might not have been properly interpreted.

"I never urged people to vote against it. I never said I was opposed to it," Turanchik said. "I know that seems nuanced but that's always how I viewed it."

His stance was interpreted by opponents of the tax as supportive of their cause. No Tax For Tracks, a group opposed to the initiative, used his photo with a forum quote criticizing the plan in mailers it sent to voters.

Future debates in the mayor's race should focus on how to wisely spend the money, Turanchik said.

"I think the mayor's race shifts over to what are you going to do? We'll be swimming in the deep end of the pool where I've been swimming for 30 years. So, welcome," he said.

Tyler Hudson, All For Transportation's chairman, declined comment Thursday. His group's initiative won in every Tampa precinct Tuesday night and netted 57 percent of the vote countywide.

Turanchik's opponents in the March 5 election all supported the tax increase.

"He was not a full-throated or even a half-throated advocate for that tax," said council member Mike Suarez of Turanchik.

Harry Cohen was "perplexed" how a candidate for the mayor of Florida's third-largest city could be so critical of the transit tax considering the gridlock facing the city: "That never made sense to me."

Jane Castor said Turanchik was against tax until it passed: "It is always easy to jump on the bandwagon of success after the fact."

Other candidates had milder reactions.

David Straz Jr.'s campaign emphasized their candidate's support for the tax, but didn't criticize Turanchik.

Topher Morrison said "people have a right to change their mind." LaVaughn King didn't return a call for comment.