In Tampa, they’re already talking about 2027.
The next Tampa mayor’s election is more than three years away, but that isn’t stopping the political chattering classes from chattering — and possibly some potential candidates from positioning themselves.
It’s unusually early to speculate, but the amount of talk among local insiders is getting hard to ignore.
Names being bandied include three City Council members — Bill Carlson, Lynn Hurtak and Luis Viera — plus former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, county Commissioners Harry Cohen and Pat Kemp, Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez and former state Rep. Sean Shaw.
All are Democrats. None of them rule it out. “Never say never” is a political rule of thumb. But none expressed a concrete intent. Nearly all acknowledged they’ve “been approached” or heard the chatter.
“People are talking about it,” said Viera, who appears to be working hard to boost his public profile.
Viera has been a prolific op-ed writer, with recent pieces on the council’s budget debate, Hispanic Heritage Month and even on Bruce Springsteen. He is active on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. He’s pushing a move to change city elections to even-numbered years to boost turnout, and he is developing a reputation for turning up at community events and forums.
He’s even been criticized by fellow Democrats for speaking at Republican gatherings. He says he feels he should try to connect to people with whom he disagrees.
Why all the talk so early?
Some insiders say it’s because the council’s conflicts with Mayor Jane Castor have raised their profiles and diminished hers; others say it’s because there is no obvious successor on the horizon for when Castor terms out in spring 2027.
“There’s concern about what comes next, about who might follow Jane,” said Buckhorn, who managed to sound like he was making a campaign speech while at the same time saying he’s made no decision.
“We’ve had a succession of good mayors” including Castor, he said. “People saw the progress that was made during my eight years and want that to continue. They don’t want to turn the page and go back. It’s flattering but I haven’t made any decision.”
Buckhorn might be more likely to run if Carlson does — they are bitter political enemies — and Carlson, in turn, might be more likely to run if Buckhorn does.
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“I don’t know yet what I’m going to do,” Carlson said, adding he’s thinking only about the coming council term “to fight for neighborhoods and against government waste.”
Hurtak showed little interest. “I’m flattered that some folks think I’m qualified to be mayor, but it’s just not something I’m thinking about,” she said. And Kemp, term-limited next year, said it’s too early to think about it.
Cohen, who ran in 2019, acknowledged he might be interested in another try, but is also eligible to seek another commissioner term in 2026.
He said he’ll decide in 2025 whether to run for re-election, for mayor, or neither, but he won’t try to do both. Until then, he said, he’s not thinking about it.
Henriquez acknowledged he’s long been a subject of mayoral speculation and is flattered, “but I’m not thinking beyond my (2024) re-election right now. We’ll see what the future holds.”
And Shaw, who makes no secret of his ambition to further his electoral career, said he’s “giving thought to whether running for mayor is the best way to continue that service.”