1. Opinion

Daniel Ruth: In wide-open race for Tampa mayor, the more the merrier

Published Apr. 4, 2018

For a moment there I needed to remind myself that noted Tampa public relations executive Tony Collins was trying to explain the complex machinations surrounding next year's Tampa mayoral campaign, rather than what sounded like divining the Medici family's line of succession.

It's not that the very savvy Collins actually believed in what appeared to be a scenario reminiscent of Michael Corleone finally figuring out that it was Barzini all along who was trying to kill him. He was simply passing along stuff he has heard other people ruminating over.

And it was about half-way through his dissertation — as my eyes began to glaze over — on Tampa political maneuvering that I began to wonder: A) "Who does this guy hang out with?" and B) There are people in this city with way too much time on their hands.

Okay. Here we go.

If I grasped Collins' dissection of the 2019 mayoral race, there are people in the city — and again, Collins was merely the messenger, not necessarily a disciple of the theory — who speculate that the road to City Hall glory for former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik is grounded in the notion that likely but so far formally unannounced candidates Tampa bazillionaire David Straz and former police chief Jane Castor will cancel each other out on the hustings, thus paving the way for Turanchik, who is a known commodity and a policy wonk's policy wonk, to waltz into office leaving in his wake a trail of crushed ambitions.

And yes, that was a very long paragraph — sorry about that — but when you are trying to get your arms around the nuances of Tampa politics, things can begin to verge on coming to grips with Stephen Hawking's thoughts on black holes.

I'm still not entirely convinced Straz will take the plunge. Really, why would a guy in his mid-70s with all the money in the world want to spend his days sitting there on Kennedy Boulevard taking flak from constituents for noisy party-goers on Howard Avenue?

The working theory here is that Straz might well bypass the traditional Tampa method of running for office by touring neighborhoods, tapping on doors and wearing out shoe leather by simply carpet-bombing the airwaves with tons of commercials touting his "man of the people" bona fides.

That might work, although Tampa is still a place where citizens do sort of expect people asking for their votes to actually look them in the eye, press their flesh and ask them for their vote. It's annoying, I know, but democracy can be a many-splendored, touchy-feely thing.

Meanwhile, the knock on Castor is that many African-American voters are still plenty steamed at her for a controversial policy on her watch at TPD where the cops cracked down on black youths riding bicycles. Fair enough. But Castor, a Tampa native, knows the city and still has a year to travel around minority neighborhoods groveling in humiliation and apologizing.

More recently Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen announced his mayoral candidacy, which was a little surprising. Conventional wisdom had suggested Cohen was more likely to run for Hillsborough Clerk of Courts to succeed his boss, Pat Frank. But, you know, the allure of being mayor can sometimes cloud political agendas.

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And it is widely anticipated Cohen's council colleague Mike Suarez will also enter the mayor's race soon. Ah, the more the merrier.

If you throw enough candidates into any race, just about anything can happen. The odds of someone saying or doing something incredibly stupid increases accordingly. Candidates can and do cancel each other out, paving the way for someone else to rise to the top.

Still, it's early yet. Plenty of time for all manner of unanticipated events to cause mischief. Who knows? Maybe former mayor Dick Greco may get antsy in retirement looking for something to do.

C'mon, admit it. You actually gave that a thought or two, didn't you?