Tampa politics: A-Rod for mayor?

Candidates real and imagined abound to replace Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. See who has a real shot at winning.

By Chris Ingram

Affable and competent Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is term-limited from running for re-election to a third consecutive term as mayor. Mayor Bob was long-speculated to run for governor in 2018, but doubled down on Hillary Clinton’s run for the Oval Office with hopes of landing a plumb assignment as Ambassador to Ireland or the Vatican (both naturals for this Lucky Charms eating Catholic).

As we all know, Buckhorn’s bet went to the house, and Donald Trump is in the White House and ol’ Bob is left to ponder what could’ve been, and what to do next.

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Lesson learned: Win first. Measure for drapes second.

Buckhorn’s dilemma is the last thing on the minds of several aspiring pols who would like to replace him.

The list of aspiring Gasparilla-keepers is longer than complaints about the lack of crosswalks across Bayshore Blvd., or potholes across city roadways. Still, political ladder climbers abound, and someone will get the job that pays $151,507 per year and comes with a dedicated Tampa Police officer for guard duty. That sounds good, maybe I will run.

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A ubiquitous Tampa pothole.

Earlier this week, one of the mayoral aspirants paid a polling company more money than it was worth to test a “sample ballot” of some of the potential candidates. The poll asked voters from a list of likely mayoral wannabes which one they liked best, if the election for mayor of Tampa were held today. For the record, it’s not being held today – or this year for that matter; in fact, it’s not even being held next year. The Tampa mayoral election will be in March 2019. Yeah. March 2019. That’s about 20 months from now, hence this poll being a waste of money. But alas, politicians with more money than brains like polls that tell them how good their sample ballot numbers are and how high their name I.D. is – unless they aren’t.

The wasteful survey gave the option to “vote” in the poll for one of six hopefuls which the geniuses behind the poll (and the unnamed candidate who paid for it) thought should top the list. The options were given in the order that follows – even though actual voter ballots list candidates alphabetically: former State Rep. Ed Narain, former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, City Councilman Mike Suarez, Councilman Harry Cohen, architect Mickey Jacobs, and former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik.

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Ten bucks you have no idea who this guy is.

It is worth noting, all of the candidates are Democrats with the exception of Jacobs (though the race is officially non-partisan, the last Republican to serve was Bob Martinez who changed parties from Democrat to Republican while in office). It is also worth pointing out that I know five of the six candidates (all but Jacobs). That doesn’t bode well for him, because I am a Republican. I also live in Tampa. If a Republican is to have a chance at winning a seat on the lowly but powerful pothole review board, much less mayor of Tampa, he needs every Republican in the city to vote for him; and even then, he doesn’t have much of a chance.

So we can start this ill-conceived survey by eliminating Jacobs from the list of real contenders.

But before analyzing the viability of the rest of the so-called field, it’s also important to consider who is missing from the list. Those names include: Councilwoman Yoli Capin; Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan (who doesn’t even live in the city); author and professional speaker Topher Morrison; and I’ll throw in lawyer and state legislative candidate Bob Buesing because I like him (and he bought me breakfast a few months ago, and I can be bought for a $9.99 omelet and cup of coffee at First Watch). Oh! And last but not least, don’t forget about former MLBA player Alex Rodriguez; he is on the list because I needed a catchy title to this column to get morons who don’t care about politics and government to read it. Welcome morons! 

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A-Rod: “You want me to run for what?”

So let’s look at who the poll’s puppet masters think is “in” and dissect them.

Of the five legitimate candidates, I like all but one of them (and I am not saying who the one I don’t like is, but if any of the them take me out to Datz for lunch I will tell them it wasn’t them).  In fact, some of the candidates I believe are, or would be fine public servants – in a self-serving, unaccomplished, egotistical, political ladder-climbing sort of way. I used to fondly think the same way about Marco Rubio. Today I see him as worse than termite dust (which I currently have in my house causing me to think Rubio may actually be better than termite dust), but that’s another column.

So here are the five analyzed:

Ed Narain – Ed is extremely likeable, is smart, has decent name ID in parts of the city, and (unlike Marco Rubio), he has a day job (albeit government related) working for a large telecom company as a lobbyist or something. Ed is a family man with really cute kids, and he has a good heart and good intentions. He would make a fine mayor. He barely lost his race to the state senate against Darryl Rouson last year. To win the mayoral race, he’s going to need to expand his name I.D., and become known as more than just “the black candidate.” If he plays his cards right, he can probably do it, but it’s going to be a challenge. Joining a Rotary Club would certainly help him in this endeavor.

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Former state Rep. Ed Narain and family.

Jane Castor – Jane probably knows the streets of Tampa better than the guy who paved them. She served for decades as an officer with TPD, and retired a few years ago as the city’s police chief. By most accounts she did a great job as chief, but she has a few scandals under her belt to explain, including the set-up of a DUI of a lawyer in the Bubba the Love Sponge case by one of her officers, as well as the whole issue of “ticketing while black” of the city’s black bicycle riders.  She’ll get past all that, but being on defense isn’t how you want to start your campaign. Castor would be the city’s first openly gay mayor (ensuring her getting the endorsement of the liberal mullet wrapper Tampa Bay Times), even though ironically she was a Republican until just about two years ago. Thanks a lot Ana!

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Former TPD Chief Jane Castor is a familiar face.

Mike Suarez – I like to kid Mike that he is Bob Buckhorn’s “Minnie me.” I’m not sure Mike likes that comparison, but I’d take it to the bank if I were him. I would also take his hair. I am mostly bald. Mike is not. I would kill for his perfectly coifed hair if I cared about having hair. Speaking of grooming, Suarez has groomed himself to be mayor. Like Buckhorn, he is affable, and that matters more than smarts in politics because voters are really shallow and stupid (see Donald Trump). He will likely present himself as an extension of the good times (less all the potholes and police scandals) of the Buckhorn administration. Like Mayor Bob, Suarez won’t embarrass the city, but he’s not exactly going to be a dynamic visionary leader either, and at the end of his term, Tampa will most likely still be riddled with potholes and flooded streets. It could be worse.

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Good natured and good hair, Councilman Mike Suarez is Buchkhorn, Jr.

Harry Cohen – Of the six candidates whom I know, I know Harry the least. Like others, he’s got good grey matter, and a grasp of the issues, but he’s not exactly the most mesmerizing candidate you ever met. But hey, neither was Pam Iorio and she did a great job as mayor of Tampa. Still, voters don’t want smart, they want fun and likable. Don’t believe me? Remember Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush. WTF! But in a multi-candidate race, Cohen could be a consensus builder and sneak to victory.

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Councilman Harry Cohen could be consensus candidate.

Ed Turanchik – Of all the candidates with smarts, Ed is the most cerebral. He knows transportation like it’s his job, and I would imagine he also has the best grasp on where to get the finest vegan and gluten-free green smoothie in the city. While that sits well with Tampa’s liberal elite, and all the fools out there who think they have a gluten allergy (doctors say less than 1 percent of the population is actually allergic to gluten, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at all the over-priced gluten-free options at swanky south Tampa restaurant menus), it might not sit well with the just-slightly left-of-center Tampa voters. Thus, it doesn’t bode well for Turanchik’s prospects that he’s more Bernie Sanders than Joe Biden. Choo! Choo!

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Former Hills. Commissioner Ed Turanchik needs to share his vision beyond rail.

So there you have it, my official analysis of the unofficial candidates for Mayor of Tampa. May the best candidate win – announced, unannounced, or pie in the sky wishful thinking rumor mongering for someone else to get in it by people like me.

Go A-rod!

Chris Ingram is a political consultant, media personality, columnist, and political analyst for Bay News 9. Follow him on Twitter at: @IrreverentView. 

 

Uber and Lyft denied free markets

Even better, the driver was a delightful man who knew how to carry on a conversation using flawless English, with just a slight Sudanese accent. His name was Abbas. He came to the U.S. as a political refugee from Sudan 10 years ago. When he arrived, he had little more than the shirt on his back. A decade later, he has a college education, owns a fleet of 10 cars and employs over a dozen people.

Protecting the candle makers

Published in the Tampa Tribune, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

By Chris Ingram

I frequently travel on business to Jacksonville and have used local cabs to get to and from the airport. On a recent trip, the cab I was dispatched can only be described as less-than-suitable. It was old, smelled like cigarette smoke, the air conditioning didn’t work, and I had to dig between seat cushions, assorted crumbs and trash to find a broken seat-belt locking mechanism.

After picking me up, the driver asked if I minded if he stopped for a second to pick up some items that someone had left out with their garbage. He collected his new-found treasures and placed them in the trunk on top of my suitcase.

My prior experiences with cabs in Jacksonville haven’t been much better, and my occasional cab encounters in Tampa have been similar.

Last week in Jacksonville, I tried Uber. My car showed up early. It was a late-model sedan. It was clean. Everything from the power windows, air conditioning and seat belts all worked.

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Photo: Uber’s ap allows customers to place their ride request.

Even better, the driver was a delightful man who knew how to carry on a conversation using flawless English, with just a slight Sudanese accent. His name was Abbas. He came to the U.S. as a political refugee from Sudan 10 years ago. When he arrived, he had little more than the shirt on his back. A decade later, he has a college education, owns a fleet of 10 cars and employs over a dozen people.

Abbas is an American success story with deep lessons about the value of a good education, picking yourself up from nothing and turning yourself into something, through hard work and determination.

He has learned a lot about American government and burdensome regulations by helping with Uber’s fight in Tallahassee to break the monopoly that traditional cabs have in most markets.

Hillsborough County is one of those markets. In fact, we’re one of the worst — (Click here to read the column in today’s Tampa Tribune).

Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online. He is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.

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Gasparilla photos

Pictures by Chris Ingram of Gasparilla 2014.

My wife and I took the girls down to Gasparilla for the first time this year. Fortunately we were in the safe(r) confines of the City of Tampa’s tent that didn’t require fighting the crowds as much. We all had a great time. Some of my favorite pictures are attached.

Chris

Click on any photo to enlarge.

All photos copyright 2014 411 Communications.

Sheriff Gee helps get things started.
Sheriff Gee helps get things started.
My Bay News 9 counterpart Ana Cruz tosses beads from a TPD cruiser  driven by Chief Castor.
My Bay News 9 counterpart, Ana Cruz, tosses beads from a TPD cruiser driven by Chief Castor.

 

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IMG_0735 My girls waiting for the parade to start.
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Stop action/blurr photo I took getting bored watching the FHP cycles drive up and down the parade route for what seemed like 20 minutes after the parade started.
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Casey with “Buccaneer Bob” Martinez — Florida’s former governor.
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Bucs cheerleaders.
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Mayor Bob (thanks for standing up to the pirates!)
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Conservative radio host (and Rough Rider) Bill Bunkley.
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Scariest pirate of the day (and my favorite pic).
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Me and all my girls with Mayor Bob. Thanks for the invite Mr. Mayor!
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Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda.

Continue reading “Gasparilla photos”

Hillsborough schools getting it right by changing with the times

While the district is frequently in the news for what goes wrong at its schools, the district deserves kudos for its efforts to prepare our students for the global economy — particularly as it relates to new technology.

Students in 27 of the county’s 44 high schools are now offered the opportunity to earn certificates. Those certificates show a student’s proficiency in programs such as Photoshop or Excel. Certificates are offered for Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Microsoft, Quickbooks and the COMPTIA A+ products. Last year 3,040 information technology-related industry certifications were awarded to Hillsborough students.

By Chris Ingram

Hillsborough County residents pay more in taxes to fund the county’s school system, which has a budget of $2.8 billion, than they do to run every other department or agency in the county combined.

The Hillsborough school system is the largest employer in the county, with more than 25,000 employees, of which nearly 16,000 are teachers. The system is the third largest in Florida and the ninth largest in the country with over 202,000 students (for comparison, the city of Tampa has about 350,000 residents).

Of those students, nearly 60 percent are eligible for free and reduced lunches. At last count, there were 168 languages spoken by students attending the county’s schools, which has a graduation rate of 82 percent.

The challenges of the Hillsborough school district are immense. The number of students, and the diversity of the population, adds to the enormity of those challenges.

While the district is frequently in the news for what goes wrong at its schools, the district deserves Continue reading “Hillsborough schools getting it right by changing with the times”

A year after Tampa, can the GOP fix itself with a third party?

Unfortunately for the GOP, there is truth to both concerns, and the present dichotomy between these two views from within the party is unenviable.

The problem is compounded by the fact that millions of people are abandoning the Republicans (as well as the Democrats), preferring instead to register with no-party affiliation.

So what is the GOP to do?

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune, August 27, 2013

One year ago, the GOP convention came to town, albeit delayed for a day because of sensitivities to what Tropical Storm Isaac, brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, might do.

As Isaac passed and the party began to convene, Republicans began what they thought was the last leg of their road to retake the White House. The convention ended up being a seemingly seamless and perfectly choreographed affair — unless you consider the Isaac issue, Clint Eastwood’s performance with “Obama’s chair,” or the fact that the assembled delegates on the convention floor looked whiter than a bowl of cottage cheese.

Mitt Romney left the convention without much movement in the polls, and days later, the Democrats met in Charlotte, where they held one of their most successful conventions in recent times.

The hopes of Republican voters jumped after the first debate, but Romney couldn’t sustain the enthusiasm and lost big to Obama on Election Day.

Caption: Delegates cheer for Mitt Romney at the Republican Convention in Tampa last year.
Caption: Delegates cheer for Mitt Romney at the Republican Convention in Tampa last year.

For the GOP, the Tampa convention and the Romney campaign with the flaws that came with the candidate are now mere asterisks in the annals of party history. The question is, what have we learned since, and when will the party change?

Since the election, the most common comments I hear about the party contain one of two views, one being Continue reading “A year after Tampa, can the GOP fix itself with a third party?”

Jonny Torres’ real record and his pal John Morgan

Torres’ campaign platform centers around his concern with what he believes is over-representation of northeast Florida by the executive board members of the YRs. “With Florida being one of the largest states in the continental U.S., it’s unfortunate that half of the board members are from the northeastern region of the state,” Torres stated in a press release announcing his candidacy posted on the TBYR website. This is apparently the big ill of the GOPs ways that causes it to lose elections; having someone from Tampa as FFYR chair is apparently going to fix the GOP’s election woes – whatever you say Jonny!

By Chris Ingram

Florida Young Republicans can do better than this political wanna-be

Just when you thought it was safe to call yourself a Republican again, little Jonny Torres enters the room to remind you of the slime of the Jim Greer days.

Granted, Jonny Torres is by no means a household name and you probably wouldn’t recognize him in a one-man lineup, but he’s got some greasy Greer qualities nonetheless. Torres is actually nothing more than an unknown wannabe and poser in Florida political circles — those “circles” being limited to the Tampa Bay Young Republicans organization where he serves as the club’s chairman. In an attempt to make a name for himself, Torres is challenging Peret Pass for chair of the parent group of the TBYRs, the Florida Federation of Young Republicans at the organization’s annual meeting in Orlando this weekend.

Jonny Torres and friends. Photo courtesy Jonny Torres
Jonny Torres and friends. Photo courtesy Jonny Torres

Torres’ campaign platform centers around his concern with what he believes is over-representation of northeast Florida by the executive board members of the YRs. “With Florida being one of the largest states in the continental U.S., it’s unfortunate that half of the board members are from the northeastern region of the state,” Torres stated in a press release  announcing his candidacy posted on the TBYR website. This is apparently the big ill of the GOPs ways that causes it to lose elections; having someone from Tampa as FFYR chair is apparently going to fix the GOP’s election woes   – whatever you say Jonny!

In his campaign materials attacking his opponents for where they hail from, Jon-boy fails to acknowledge what should be bigger concerns to the voting members of the Florida Young Republicans organization. Namely, Torres’ arrest Continue reading “Jonny Torres’ real record and his pal John Morgan”

Reflections by Florida’s senior Republican statesman

The “other side,” as Martinez refers to the Democrats, is very adept at playing politics with important issues. He points to the sequester as a prime example. Initiated by Democrats, they then turned around and pointed the finger at the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as being the villains for the forced spending cuts — which Martinez accurately points out are just cuts in the rate of growth, not really cuts in total spending, which continues to increase.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

After serving as mayor of Tampa for six years, Bob Martinez resigned to run for governor in 1986. The former Democrat became Florida’s first Republican governor in 16 years but lost his re-election bid four years later following the state’s controversial attempt at implementing a tax on services — a measure the Legislature passed but quickly repealed.

He later served for nearly two years as the nation’s “Drug Czar” under President George H.W. Bush. Since then, Martinez, who has always maintained residency in Tampa, has kept an active but mostly behind the scenes profile in Florida political circles.

I recently sat down with the former governor in the offices of the law firm where he works as a lobbyist to talk about his life in politics, his legacy and issues facing the Republican Party and the country.

We start out talking about the national political environment and the major issues facing our country — most notably the national debt and government spending.

“Since the federal government doesn’t have to balance the budget, they have the ability to just kick the can. Every time they kick the can, after a while voters stop listening,” he says.

Economic and budgetary issues are hard to explain, and are far removed from people’s lives — or so they think, Martinez says. Explaining them is “… complicated because there is no sound-bite answer.”

The “other side,” as Martinez refers to the Democrats, is very Continue reading “Reflections by Florida’s senior Republican statesman”