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  1. Opinion

Carlton: Turanchinomics is trending. The Tampa mayor's race just got real.

Candidates to be Tampa's next mayor ditched the dainty white gloves and, well, turned on each other. But in a good way, at least for voters.
Tampa mayoral candidates LaVaughn King, Harry Cohen, Ed Turanchik, David Straz, Mike Suarez, Jane Castor and Topher Morrison prepare to debate at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor City Campus on Wednesday night.
Published Jan. 10

By Sue Carlton

Times Columnist

Turanchinomics (teranchinomiks) noun: One candidate's assessment of another's economic philosophy as big ideas that don't get done. Origin: Jan. 9, 2019, the day the race for Tampa mayor started to get real, or at least really interesting.

Looks like the "May I pour you more tea" and "Oh no, I couldn't possibly" portion of the contest to become Tampa's next mayor is officially over.

Good. Time to start seeing who the people who want to run this city really are.

All seven hopefuls — the longtime politicians, the former police chief, the rich guy and the two newcomers who have no chance but, like good party guests, really add to the conversation — got into what you could call a polite but feisty duke-fest at the latest forum Wednesday night.

Former county commissioner and transportation wonk Ed Turanchik, who can find himself accused of an I'm-The-Smartest-Guy-In-The-Room vibe, got picked for dodge ball first again. Fellow candidates charged that he has big ideas like landing the Olympics in Tampa but has historically lacked follow-through.

"What I call Turanchinomics — he dreams, you pay, and nothing happens," said a particularly spirited Harry Cohen, a city councilman, in the soundbite of the night.

Councilman Mike Suarez made persistent bickering over being interrupted his most memorable moment. Which was unfortunate, since he had a strong answer to the lighter-than-air beachball question of the evening: What's your favorite thing about Gasparilla?

How diverse it is now, Suarez said, instead of how it used to just be about rich guys dressing up and getting drunk.

And when rich guy David Straz opined that the Tampa Bay Rays would need to put up serious money to stay in Tampa? Suarez zinged, "I hear they're looking for investors."

And hey, points to Straz for showing up, making him 3-2 in five forums so far. This time he did not use notes, nor did he send a surrogate intended to field the questions for him in his absence, perhaps in a Straz-like voice. (No, said the moderator.) Straz exuded a friendly if somewhat disconnected vibe and reminded voters he's no politician. They know.

Turanchik, and nearly all the other candidates, rightly held former police chief Jane Castor's feet to the fire for her department's controversial biking-while-black tactic. During her tenure, eight of 10 bicyclists ticketed were black in what was widely decried as the stopping-and-frisking of minorities.

It's a chink in frontrunner Castor's armor. She said it was wrong, again, and apologized, again, as she no doubt will at future forums.

Castor also was the only one with the grace to plainly answer the question of whom each candidate would vote for if they couldn't pick themselves. No one, others said, or I'm not sure.

Cohen, Castor said, though she was quick to add that she's the more prepared candidate.

And big props to no-shot candidates LaVaughn King and Topher Morrison for representing their respective contingencies — Tampa's underserved east neighborhoods, and millennials who dream of Tampa someday becoming The Rooftop City. I did not make that up. Would that I could.

It was their most rough and tumble debate yet, and also the truest.

The morning after, Turanchik told me he plans to run with "Turanchinomics," to make it his own in his detailed plans for this city.

Can't wait.

Contact Sue Carlton at scarlton@tampabay.com.

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