TAMPA — A flyer that hit mailboxes across the city Tuesday shows a smiling Mayor Bob Buckhorn touting the virtues of candidate David Straz.
And that has the popular term-limited mayor peeved.
"Mr. Straz has long held Tampa's interests in his heart. ...His years of budget and banking experience will be invaluable in helping me navigate the uncertain economic realities that we'll face," reads the quote that the mayor said Tuesday he doesn't remember saying.
In tiny type at the bottom is an asterisk explaining that Buckhorn's comments aren't an endorsement.
Straz was Buckhorn's transition chair after the mayor won his first term in 2011. But the two men have frequently been at odds since the retired banker and philanthropist announced his run for mayor last year.
To use his words from eight years ago, the mayor said, "is totally out of context."
"It's completely inappropriate to be included now with the inference that I'm endorsing him, which I absolutely am not," Buckhorn said. "I would have expected better. The voters deserve better."
The Straz campaign released a statement saying the mailer was transparent and the quote comes from a 2011 press release.
"As for Buckhorn's remarks, David Straz continues to hold him in high regard," the statement said.
The mailer also contains glowing praise from City Council Chairman Frank Reddick and City Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin, both of whom have endorsed Straz. Straz recently said he'd name Reddick as deputy mayor if he wins election.
Putting all three widely recognized Tampa politicians on the same mailer suggests that Buckhorn is adding his endorsement to those of Reddick and Capin, the mayor said. Straz has been the most critical of Buckhorn on the campaign trail, repeatedly criticizing him for neglecting neighborhoods in favor of downtown development and presiding over a good old boys network in the city. Straz also said the city was rife with "graft and corruption," but declined to give further details, which prompted another rebuke from Buckhorn in late January.
And Buckhorn criticized Straz on Twitter after the 76-year-old candidate called for an investigation into Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's influence in the city.
Buckhorn hasn't endorsed any of the seven candidates in the race yet, although he is widely expected to back his former police chief Jane Castor, the front runner in local polling. He said Tuesday he won't make an endorsement before the March 5 election, another reason why Straz's mailer irked him.
"I've made it a point to remain neutral in the primary," said Buckhorn, 60.
Contact Charlie Frago at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.