TAMPA — Call it a meme for the Tampa mayor's race — David Straz getting his BK on.
At nearly every forum, Straz mentions he dines regularly at Burger King. He has promised to convene the "Quality of Life" cabinet he plans to establish each Monday — but only after breakfast at the fast-food restaurant.
During an early February forum, former candidate Mike Suarez challenged Straz to name which Burger King he frequents. The answer: 611 S. Dale Mabry Blvd., after a visit to a nearby gym.
Still, some remained skeptical. Why would the 76-year-old retired banker and philanthropist, worth $426 million, choose a Croissan'wich at the King over the Eggs Benedict at the exclusive, sky-high University Club downtown?
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Ashley Bauman, spokeswoman for Mayor Bob Buckhorn, recently tweeted about it, asking if anyone has actually seen one of Tampa's richest men at Burger King.
In the end, the claim proved easy to fact check.
"He's a regular," said general manager Israel Rojas, 54, who figures Straz has visited his Dale Mabry restaurant once or twice a week for months. Rojas didn't know who he was at first, but then he noticed people taking pictures of him.
Other employees were clued in when they started seeing the candidate's commercials on television.
It turns out the Dale Mabry restaurant is Straz' backup BK. The candidate said he usually visits the Burger King at 4565 W Kennedy Blvd., where they serve him breakfast his way — a made-to-order scrambled egg and ham.
Employees come out to shake Straz's hand, said the candidate's spokesman Jarrod Holbrook. And Holbrook, who breakfasts with Straz from time to time, confirmed that amateur paparazzi snap a selfie or two now and then with the candidate who squeaked into the runoff against heavily favored former police chief Jane Castor.
"He's like a rock star over there," Holbrook said. "He knows everyone's name."
At the Dale Mabry restaurant, where employees say Straz drops by between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., the candidate usually dines alone in a booth by the window. He always orders a coffee there, with cream and sugar on the side, and often a ham, egg and cheese Croissan'wich, they said.
With five weeks left before the April 23 runoff, Castor and Straz have been busy with campaign events from morning to night. But the underdog candidate still finds time for his BK fix.
He started off this work week with breakfast there — both Monday and Tuesday mornings.
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