TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn wasted no time Wednesday before mentioning the idea of running for governor in 2018.
"Where's the fan?"
The joke — a reference to Charlie Crist's ever-present and controversial fan — was the first thing out of Buckhorn's mouth at his first public event of the day, a groundbreaking for a 21-story apartment tower on Harbour Island.
And it didn't stop there.
"I don't know about you all, but I'm so glad that campaign's over," Buckhorn told a small group of developers and others. "It's time to get back to the business of actually getting things done and stop complaining about who's a Democrat and who's a Republican and who's shady and who flip-flopped.
"That's why being a mayor is the best job in America, is because I don't have to deal with any of that nonsense," he said.
"At least, yet," he added. "There will be an open seat in four years. I'm just saying."
After the groundbreaking, Buckhorn said he was only talking about something that is already in the air.
"I know the speculation is inevitable," he said. "The mayors are the bench for the Democratic Party, whether it's Buddy Dyer in Orlando or Jack Seiler in Fort Lauderdale. There's an argument that could be made that in this hyper-partisan environment, people are tired of the feud and they want their government to work, they want people who are willing to work with both sides to get it done."
A Democrat who chaired then-President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign in Hillsborough County, Buckhorn, 56, said he told both gubernatorial campaigns months ago that he was staying on the sidelines this year.
He has said Tampa has a lot it needs from Tallahassee so he was not looking to pick fights with Gov. Rick Scott or other GOP leaders and has said Scott has been "particularly good" to Tampa. Plus, he says, it's not like he has a long-standing relationship with Crist.
All of which has fueled discussion that he could be in a better position to run for governor in 2018 if an incumbent Democrat were not in the office.
"Whether that translates into an opportunity for me personally or not, I don't know," Buckhorn told reporters. "I'm focused on my re-election this spring and doing a job for four years that would allow me to make a decision down the road as to whether or not that's something I'm willing to pursue. That answer could just as easily be no. … If I intend to go down that path, I've got to do my job here for the next four years."
Sounding like a candidate, the mayor said the race that ended Tuesday offered nothing to admire.
"There was nothing aspirational about this governor's race," said Buckhorn, who declined to say whom he voted for Tuesday. "There was not a single moment where I felt inspired by either side to believe in something bigger. … I think people are crying out for that. I think they've had it with the tone and tenor and nastiness of this campaign. These campaigns are all about demonizing someone else as opposed to uplifting the state."