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  1. Florida Politics

William March: David Straz, exploring run for mayor, backs away from Trump

After a social media backlash to the news that David Straz backed Donald Trump, the potential Tampa mayoral candidate said through his spokeswoman this week that no longer does.

"He will not be voting for Mr. Trump in 2020 — he simply does not agree with his values," said Spencer, confirming that Straz supported Trump last year.

Straz, a philanthropist and retired backer, is exploring a possible 2019 Tampa mayoral campaign.

His 2016 vote was mentioned in a story last month by Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times about a visit he made to Cuba as part of a Tampa City Council delegation.

The reaction came from progressive political activists who might otherwise support Straz, including posts on the Facebook site of Indivisible Action Tampa Bay, part of a national anti-Trump movement.

"Weird," wrote Kevin Thurman, known for advocating transit issues. "Not going to fly here."

"If this is true, he's disqualified himself," Nadine Smith of Equality Florida said in an interview.

City elections are non-partisan, but parties often get involved. Straz says he's a no-party registrant who supports candidates from both parties.

Campaign finance records show he's given to a mix of Republicans and Democrats at the federal level, but mainly to Republicans at the state level, including large donations to the state Republican Party from 1998-2006.

Asked why Straz has changed his view on Trump, Spencer said it's because of divisiveness in the nation and personnel turnover in the administration.

Straz holding listening sessions by demographic

As part of his exploration of a run for Tampa mayor, Straz has been holding "listening sessions" — lunch meetings with small groups of people to discuss city issues.

A few attendees at the meetings, which haven't been open to reporters, said Straz didn't commit to running, but they got the sense he's likely to.

He'll hold another, a "West Tampa-style spaghetti lunch," 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Sons of Italy Hall.

He has held four meetings — one each for women, men, elders and millennials, spokeswoman Spencer said.

About 15 attended the women's meeting Oct. 25 at the Tucker Hall public relations firm, said attendee and former city council candidate Julie Jenkins.

Jenkins said she found Straz "a potentially viable candidate," but hasn't made up her mind whom she'll support for mayor.

One invitee who said she wanted to attend but couldn't was prominent Democratic fundraiser Alex Sink, also undecided on the race.

The men's gathering included "a lot of movers and shakers from the business community," said attendee Chris Ingram, a Republican consultant and commentator. "I think Straz is going to run."

GOP's Deborah Tamargo subject of grievance

Four Hillsborough County Republican Party officers have filed a grievance with the state party seeking to suspend and possibly remove county party Chair Deborah Tamargo.

The flap arose from a debate over the location of the party's monthly meetings, and what seemed a minor incident involving a perceived slight by Tamargo toward one speaker.

The speaker was advocating holding meetings at The River of Tampa Bay, a church with which at least some of those filing the grievance are affiliated. Because the subject had been debated previously, Tamargo said, she asked the speaker to keep her comments brief.

The party officers sought to censure Tamargo for the slight and what they called "an increasing frequency and severity of (party) Constitution and rules infractions," most relating to the meeting site debate.

They contend that Tamargo then falsely invoked the authority of the state party in opposing the censure, including bringing in a lawyer who Tamargo said was authorized by the state party to investigate.

The lawyer's report cleared Tamargo, but the grievance says the state party never authorized any lawyer's investigation, and that Tamargo is guilty of misusing the state party's name and authority.

The complaint was filed by Clarice Henderson, Michael Henderson, Jim Waurishuk and Jeanne Webb.

Clarice and Michael Henderson are affiliated with the church, according to their social media postings. Waurishuk and Webb refused to say whether they are, calling the question "irrelevant."

Tamargo responded via email that the grievance amounted to "shocking slander" and that she's "glad it was filed so the facts can be presented." She said she'd have more substantive comments after getting legal advice.

Janet Cruz throws bi-partisan kickoff event

State Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, kicked off her county commission campaign last week with an impressive and somewhat bipartisan fundraiser.

The host list for Cruz's event at the Pepin Hospitality Centre was a who's who of prominent local Democrats — more than two dozen Democratic elected officials or former officials — and nearly 60 donors.

Since Yoli Capin left the race to run David Straz's exploratory campaign for mayor, Cruz is the only Democrat in the District 1 race. Term-limited in her House seat, she's probably the party's best hope for a third seat on the board of commissioners in 2018.

But the committee and the attendees also included a half dozen or more prominent Republicans, some from the lobbying, public relations and political consulting industries in which Cruz's daughter, Ana Cruz, has worked.

Among them: Tom Pepin of Pepin Distributing; Todd Josko, an associate of Ana Cruz at Ballard Partners lobbying firm; Moffitt Cancer Center staff lobbyist Jamie Wilson; former Port Tampa Bay Vice President Ed Miyagishima, now a consultant; and lobbyist Ron Pierce.

That's partly because so far, the race has failed to attract a big-name Republican. The only Republican filed is Aakash Patel, a comparatively young newcomer to politics; rumors continue of more candidates.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com

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