1. Florida Politics

William March: If she's elected mayor, Carlson foresees no problem working with Castor

Newly elected Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson says he sees no problem working with Jane Castor if she’s elected mayor. [Photo courtesy of the Carlson campaign]
Newly elected Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson says he sees no problem working with Jane Castor if she’s elected mayor. [Photo courtesy of the Carlson campaign]
Published Apr. 3, 2019

Newly elected Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson says he sees no problem working with Jane Castor if she's elected mayor, despite the long hostility between Carlson and Castor's political patron, outgoing Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

In an interview this week, Carlson said he's had discussions about the issue with Castor and with her partner, lobbyist Ana Cruz, and Cruz's mother, state Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, also both friends and political allies of Buckhorn.

All three agreed that, "It's a new day," Carlson said.

"I've spoken to (Castor) several times about it," he said. "She assures me that she will be her own person and will not be influenced by any one person. She believes in good government and so do I. My philosophy is to get along with everybody."

Carlson, a progressive, and Buckhorn, a business-oriented Democrat with a history of occasionally backing Republicans, have a longstanding political enmity.

According to Castor's campaign, Carlson is the only current or newly elected council member who hasn't endorsed Castor in her runoff race against David Straz.

Buckhorn has endorsed Castor, who served as police chief for much of his term as mayor. He also endorsed and contributed $4,250 personally and from his political committee to Lee Lowry, a Republican who ran against Carlson in the District 4 council race.

Castor's campaign confirmed that the she and Carlson had "a collegial conversation" following his win, but had no further comment.

Carlson said "a cloud is lifting" now that Buckhorn is leaving office. "It's not going to be a small group running things anymore."

D5 race appears most competitive

The District 5 race between Orlando Gudes and Jeffrey Rhodes looks like the most competitive of the three City Council runoffs set for April 23.

Both candidates have deep ties to the district's large minority community, and ran close together in the March 5 initial round of voting — 30 percent for Rhodes and 28 percent for Gudes in a five-way race.

The outcome could be a measure of change in the city's only minority-dominated council district.

Gudes is a retired Tampa police patrol and school resource officer who now works in his family's funeral home business, and has a long history of coaching and organizing local youth sports. Rhodes is co-owner of West Tampa's Ray Williams Funeral Home.

The race will fill the open seat of term-limited Frank Reddick. The winner could be the only black council member, as Reddick has been, depending on the outcome in District 1.

Gudes is backed by many in the city's progressive movement, including the local Democratic Party Progressive Caucus.

He said he'll have an advantage in the runoff because he's from East Tampa, the traditional heart of the city's black community, as were the three losing candidates, who together got 42 percent of the March 5 vote. Those East Tampa votes, he said, will incline toward him.

But Rhodes and third-place finisher Ella Coffee, a veteran political consultant backing Rhodes, called that "wishful thinking."

Although Rhodes's business and home are in West Tampa, she said, the nearly 80-year-old business has given Rhodes a base throughout East Tampa.

"I hit my high spots in West Tampa, but also got good results in East Tampa," Rhodes said.

Coffee also said the changing nature of the district, which includes gentrifying and commercializing areas of West Tampa, downtown and Channelside, could benefit a business owner.

Both candidates said there are few sharp differences between them on issues, and that experience, qualifications and personal ties are likely to decide the race.

Gillum for Smith in tight D1 race

Tampa progressives — and former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum — have lined up behind Walter L. Smith II in citywide District 1, one of the two most competitive seats in the April 23 city council runoff elections.

Joe Citro, a four-time council candidate with a long history of service on various city boards and commissions, has piled up backing from some of the city's political mainstays — the Police Benevolent Association, Association of Realtors, Builders Association and outgoing Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

He led Smith 31-19 percent in the first round March 5.

But Smith said he has "shifted gears" in his campaign since then, including bringing local progressive activist Jordan Pride as campaign manager. He's backed by progressive groups including the local Democratic Party's black and progressive caucuses and Indivisible Action Tampa Bay. The three losing candidates in the race have endorsed him, as well as 2018 Democratic attorney general candidate Sean Shaw.

This week, Smith posted an audio endorsement on his Facebook page from Gillum, whose narrow loss for governor in 2018 has made him a champion to Florida liberals. The two worked together in student government at Florida A&M University, Smith said.

Smith would be the first black man elected to a citywide council seat. "I'm under no illusions about the difficulty," he said.