Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s endorsement of Janet Cruz in the citywide District 3 City Council race is a move that’s unusual but not unheard of, as mayors usually but not always remain neutral in council races.
Cruz, the mother of Castor’s domestic partner Ana Cruz, is challenging incumbent Lynn Hurtak.
Castor has indicated she’ll also back Blake Casper, running against Bill Carlson in South Tampa-based District 4. Carlson and Hurtak have opposed the mayor on some issues.
“I think it’s wrong to endorse anybody,” said former Mayor Sandy Freedman. “You have to work with whoever gets elected, and you have to develop a relationship.”
Considering the controversy between Castor and the council, “You ought to be looking for an olive branch,” Freedman said.
Former Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he preferred to stay neutral in council races during his tenure but made at least one exception.
In a special election in 2016, he endorsed council member Luis Viera against Jim Davison, who had made comments suggesting that New Tampa could secede from the city.
“That got me off the sideline,” Buckhorn said.
Castor campaign spokeswoman Ashley Baumann said Castor is seeking “a collaborative and consensus-building council” and considers Cruz best suited for that goal.
Hurtak said she’s “not surprised” by the endorsement — “If the mayor didn’t endorse her mother-in-law it might make things pretty awkward around the dinner table.”
She noted that the city charter says, “There shall be a distinct separation of legislative and executive power” in the city, but didn’t make any accusation of a charter violation.