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For Bob Buckhorn, a new role in Florida Democratic Party

Tampa’s former mayor has been named a vice chair by Party Chairman Manny Diaz.
Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been appointed a vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party. [Times (2019)]
Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been appointed a vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party. [Times (2019)]
Published Feb. 26
Updated Feb. 26

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz has named four new party vice chairs, including former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Buckhorn, a business-oriented Democrat who focused on city issues rather than party politics and had political alliances with Republicans, has had little previous involvement with the party. His relationship with the party has ranged from distant to occasionally contentious, which inhibited his attempt to build a campaign for governor in 2017-18.

Diaz, former Miami mayor and himself a political moderate who won the chairmanship in part because of his perceived ability to raise money, was elected in January after a battle between liberal and moderate wings of the party.

Related: A conversation with Bob Buckhorn on his way out as Tampa mayor. (Spoiler: He doesn’t want to go.)

But besides Buckhorn, the other three vice chairs are closer to the progressive wing and represent a mix of constituencies.

They are Orange County Property Appraiser Amy Mercado, of Puerto Rican descent, a former state House member and official of the party’s Progressive Caucus; Karen Green, an Orlando-area Caribbean American party activist, former Diversity and Inclusion Committee chair and surrogate for Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton; and Service Employees International Union official Alphonso Mayfield.

Related: Florida Democrats pick Manny Diaz as new leader

The announcement wasn’t detailed on the function of the new offices, saying only that they would be “overseeing and advising on the strategy and operations of various functions” of the party.

Buckhorn said his role will be to “bring the voice of a mayor to the table, which is important. Democrats have successfully run the majority of the big cities in Florida. It’s a pragmatic perspective focused on results.”

Related: Tampa’s comeback was Bob Buckhorn’s story, and he stuck to it

He denied that his move into a party office is part of an attempt to get back into elective politics, but then suggested it eventually could be.

He said he got high approval ratings as mayor from people in both parties, and added, “We can’t afford to write off” conservative voters in suburban and rural counties. “We’ve got to have a candidate who can appeal across the board.”

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.