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  1. Florida Politics

Carlton: Maybe the mayor won't run for governor, and other political intrigue

In Tampa, a town where political speculation never sleeps, an interesting one is making the rounds:

Might the mayor opt out of that long-rumored run for governor?

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has sounded like a mighty likely candidate for 2018 — the Democrat striking a decidedly bipartisan note supporting the Republican governor's push to bring new companies to town, declining to visit Cuba and never quite confirming or squelching speculation that he has an eye toward Tallahassee.

But the political landscape keeps shifting. Might Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and/or currently occupied Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio become formidable gubernatorial contenders, adding to the already-hefty speculative list?

Also notable: Last month, Buckhorn's political action committee, One Florida, raised no money for the first time.

"I have not made any decision at all," Buckhorn said this week. He notes he still has years and months left on the countdown clock in his office. (Yes, as the Times has reported, the mayor keeps a countdown clock down to the second he has to leave, when you might see fingernail marks on the City Hall doorjambs. He really likes being mayor.)

Where else might Buckhorn land? Washington? A Clintonian appointment, some predict? Another run for mayor once he has been out of the office a term or two?

Buckhorn sounds uneager to do a Dick Greco, who served four terms and tried for a fifth.

A seat on the County Commission? "I can tell you for sure," Buckhorn said, "that would not happen." So we wait for the next shift in the landscape.

A recent announcement from Tallahassee regarding the resignation of Hillsborough Circuit Judge Bernard Silver was not quite the whole story.

The Florida Constitution says if a judge has more than half his term remaining when he or she reaches "the magic age of 70," as Silver puts it, that judge is no longer eligible to serve.

So while "resignation" is technically correct, it leaves room for speculation. (This would be particularly true had you lived through the bad old days at the Hillsborough courthouse when scandal-scarred judges were everywhere.)

The speculation: "Is he resigning because of some investigation or is he ill?" Silver said. In his case, neither. Silver would have gladly completed his term.

Some think the rule is practical, while others point out that mechanisms already exist to replace a judge who can't do the job.

Vice President Joe Biden, by the way, is the subject of presidential speculation at 72.

Could the race for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission get any more interesting — what with ex-commissioner Jim Norman in despite his I-did-not-take-a-free-house scandal and the speculation he could win anyway?

It might just.

Already-in contenders include ex-commissioner and pastor Tom Scott, former Hillsborough Democratic Party chair Pat Kemp, transit activist Brian Willis, consulting company owner Tim Schock and Thomas Avino.

How about a lawyer, ex-mayor and blueberry farmer?

John Dicks, Democrat and former Plant City commissioner and mayor, says he has been encouraged by friends and family who know he misses public service. Dicks, who with his wife has a blueberry farm, confirms he's talking to people and pondering it.

For the record, the current commission contains no lawyers — or farmers, either.