William March: Buckhorn leaves with ‘very few regrets’; Power behind Tampa City Council races

Mayor Bob Buckhorn leaves office May 1 and is keeping mum on his future plans.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn waves to the crowds on the Gasparilla parade route last month. He leaves office April 1. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Mayor Bob Buckhorn waves to the crowds on the Gasparilla parade route last month. He leaves office April 1. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Published February 6
Updated February 7

Bob Buckhorn has made it clear he’s proud of his eight years as mayor, which saw the beginnings of true urbanization in Tampa. But does he have any regrets?

This week, as Buckhorn began clearing books and memorabilia from his office shelves, the Times asked him what he feels he left undone.

“Until November (and passage of the All for Transportation sales tax referendum) I would have said transportation,” he said. The referendum “will allow this community to move forward. I still will walk away from this job regretting we didn’t move the ball further down the field.

“If I’d had a magic wand, we’d have been well on our way to a more robust bus system, some form of transit in the urban core, taking advantage of the existing CSX lines, better signalization and modernization of our street grid.”

That’s because of the intransigence of county officials, he said — “Unfortunately, the city doesn’t make most of those decisions.”

Otherwise, “I leave here with very few regrets. We’ve made progress on everything I came here to do, and the city is a different place as result.”

What are the big things he’s leaving for the next mayor? He mentioned the TAP water re-use project and “getting closer on high speed rail.”

Before leaving office May 1, he wants to complete requests for proposals on redevelopment projects including parts of the West River project, and water and sewer master plans.

Buckhorn is keeping mum on his future plans. Asked about the latest rumor, that he’s going to work for Jeff Vinik in the Water Street Tampa project, he said, “I haven’t had that conversation with Jeff.”

He’s currently making plans for a family vacation in Ireland after leaving office, and said, “I’ll sort it out while I’m over there drinking a Guinness.”

Parties help in council campaigns

Tampa City Council races are non-partisan — candidates can’t run as party members — but the parties or party leaders still can and do support their members.

The Hillsborough County Democratic Party this week sent out a mailer to Democrats urging them to “keep the blue wave going” by voting for two Democrats running in races contested by prominent Republicans — Bill Carlson, opposed by Lee Lowry in District 4, and incumbent Guido Maniscalco, facing Republican Wendy Pepe in District 6.

Lowry is getting some GOP help — her political consultant is veteran local GOP strategist April Schiff, and her treasurer is top GOP financial guru Nancy Watkins. Lowry’s first fundraising report wasn’t huge, $12,325, but reflected only 14 days of fundraising after her last-minute filing. Carlson, meanwhile, has raised $84,282 since June with contributions from numerous prominent Democrats plus some Republicans, business associates and others.

Pepe rode in the Gasparilla parade with Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa. She said via email she’s “neither a Republican or a Democrat,” but was registered Republican as if December, according to flvoters.com, and last year co-hosted a fundraiser for Republican women including Toledo — who narrowly lost to Maniscalco in the 2015 council race, before winning her House seat.

In other alignments, in the citywide District 1 race, Alan Clendenin, a high-level Democratic activist, is racking up prominent party endorsers — Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Clerk of Court Pat Frank, State Attorney Andrew Warren, state Sen. Janet Cruz and former Mayor Sandy Freedman, among numerous others.

 And in District 3, John Dingfelder is a prominent Democrat married to a former county party chairman, Lynn Marvin, and ran as a Democrat in 2010 for the county commission. One of his opponents, Stephen Lytle, is a no-party registrant but a former Republican, endorsed by, among others, Republicans Toledo, county Commissioner Sandy Murman, former commissioner Victor Crist, and former state Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton.

Harrison still not ruling out District 38

Former Tampa City Council member and state Rep. Shawn Harrison still isn’t ruling out jumping into the District 38 state House special election, even though former Pasco County GOP Chairman Randy Maggard appears to be building Republcan Party establishment support.

Harrison lost his North Tampa District 63 House seat, a notorious swing district, in the November election. He had no comment this week when asked this week about talk that he’s looking at District 38.

He’d have to move to serve east Pasco’s District 38, which is being vacated by Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, newly appointed head of the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Maggard, the only Republican now in the race, has been endorsed by county Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning, Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, Sheriff Chris Nocco, former state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and county Commissioner Mike Moore.

Qualifying ends Feb. 14, the primary is April 9 and the election is June 18.

Advertisement