Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn typically does not take sides in City Council races, but he said Thursday morning he is backing Luis Viera in the runoff of a special City Council election in District 7.
"I had not planned on it, but as the campaign went on and I was hearing more and more outrageous and patently false statements coming out of Mr. (Jim) Davison, I decided to step in," Buckhorn said.
He said there were three reasons for his decision.
"One, the city is firing on all cylinders, and the last thing we need is someone whose intent is to just cause more drama and divide the community," Buckhorn said. The idea of New Tampa seceding from the rest of the city — something Davison said Wednesday night that he said he would want to leave on the table — is "just patently ridiculous," Buckhorn said.
Next, Buckhorn said Davison "makes claims about solving the transportation problem." Buckhorn supported the Go Hillsborough sales tax initiative for transportation. Davison opposed it, saying that Go Hillsborough backers had dramatically underestimated the amount of money that the tax would have raised. Instead, he supported the idea of Hillsborough County scrubbing its own budget for money it could re-direct to transportation. That's what the county did, recently approving a $600 million plan over the next 10 years.
"What (Davison) really did was deny the people of New Tampa the opportunity to vote for themselves to solve their transportation problems," Buckhorn said. And the county's plan, he added, includes very little for the city.
"Third, his statements about New Tampa not getting their fair share are ridiculous," Buckhorn said. The city is about to build a second fire station in the area, has made "numerous investments in water and instrastructure" and opened the long-awaited New Tampa Nature Park next to the county's Flatwoods Wilderness Regional Park, he said.
"I have to work with whoever gets elected, but I think in this case, this requires me to step up and sort of set the record straight," Buckhorn said. "I need a council that's willing to work with me toward a positive end, not a council that's interested in dividing the city (or) is interested in fighting."
Davison said he would be willing to talk and work with the mayor, but he would be independent.
"I expect the mayor to want to control the board exactly the way he's controlled it," he said. He would provide a check on the administration, he said. For example, the expanded auditing authority that Tampa voters recently approved is something he would seek to put to good use if elected, he said.
"I think there are some things that the mayor needs to be called upon," he said, "and I am not going to roll over."
Early voting in the runoff starts today and continues through Sunday. Election day is Tuesday.