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  1. Opinion

Carlton: Just when the race to replace Bob Buckhorn is getting interesting, a Greco jumps in

The police chief, the politicians, that rich guy, the transportation wonk and the long shots: Just as the Tampa mayor's race heats up, a Greco takes the plunge.
Dick "Dickie" Greco Jr., son of Tampa's well-known serial mayor Dick Greco, is now running for mayor himself.
Published Jan. 17

Stop the presses! (Or maybe that should be: Unwind the newsreel!) Dick Greco's running for Tampa mayor!

See, I told you the race to replace the soon-to-be-termed-out Bob Buckhorn wouldn't be boring.

Those of you following along know by now we're not talking about that Dick Greco jumping last minute into the crowded contest to run Tampa.

Not the Dick Greco who first won the mayorship in the 1960s, did it three more times over the years and tried for a fifth in 2011, when Buckhorn won. Not the iconic 85-year-old man-about-town who never met a stranger — or shied from hugging one.

This time around we're talking his son of the same name, Dick Greco Jr.

Dickie, to his friends.

Some Dickie Greco trivia: If you hung around the local courthouse in the late 1980s you may recall the younger Greco campaigning for judge with the help of, not making this up, life-sized cut-outs of himself fitted with handles on the back. When these imitation Dickies were held up on street corners, it looked like the candidate himself, which let him be a whole lot of places at once.

And, hey, he won, becoming a county, circuit and senior judge for 20 years all told. He still has a couple of slightly faded Dickie cut-outs somewhere, but no, they will not be employed in his current campaign.

He's 64, a Democrat, lives on Harbour Island, has a grown son and dates County Judge Margaret Taylor. He says he had a bit of an epiphany one day when he stopped to tie his shoe along the city's winding Riverwalk and heard a woman say,"Isn't this lovely," which got him thinking about how Tampa has changed so much and for the better.

How big a boost might the Greco name be?

"I think he did a good job," says the son of the father. "If that's something people remember, I'm glad about that." He says he'd like to be a combination of all the mayors who have done well for the city, Buckhorn included, and with his father's penchant for bringing people together.

I call the current office holder to ask what he thinks this late entry will do to the mix.

"I think it dilutes it just by adding another body to the equation," Buckhorn says. He thinks the Greco name will have some cachet.

"Because it's an open race, people are going to have to earn it," says the mayor. "Your knowledge matters, your plans matter, your experience matters." Historical note: "I only beat his dad by 300 or 400 votes to make it into the runoff, so the math matters — certainly (for) the second spot."

Greco the father says he was a little surprised but told his son to do what was in his heart and that he would support him. They talked a lot about the state of modern politics. And because he is Dick Greco, he said he loves pretty much everyone who's running.

Interestingly, the father can't vote for his son, having shocked Tampa a few years back by crossing the bridge to become a resident of downtown St. Petersburg. We try not to think of this as a defection.

Spoilers: Yes, candidate Greco voted for the transportation tax, and no, like most of the other candidates he declines to say for whom he would vote if not himself. "They're all running because they want to do good things for the city," he says, Grecolike.

Tonight he joins the other candidates — former police chief Jane Castor, city council members Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, philanthropist David Straz, lawyer Ed Turanchik and political newcomers Topher Morrison and LaVaughn King — for the next debate. Hey, at the last one Turanchik told a story about a man-eating chicken, so who knows what could happen.

And there's still time for a plot twist: The deadline to file to run to be Tampa's next mayor isn't until Friday at noon.

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