Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, defends support of Republicans

09/24/13 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: Tampa Charlie Crist Alex Sink Rick Scott Pam Bondi Bob Buckhorn Dana Young Nan Rich


Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn touted his commitment to economic development during a speech to members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

photo by Janelle Irwin

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was on the host committee for a political fundraiser for Florida Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi. Buckhorn is a registered Democrat. After giving an unscripted speech at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce meeting in Ybor City Tuesday, he told WMNF why his support doesn’t mean he’s taking a leap toward the right.

"What I have told everybody from day 1 is if someone is good to the city and supportive of the city I'm going to work with them. I really don't care what they're political party is, I'm a mayor. My job is to find solutions not to argue about ideological things that I have no control over nor any desire to engage on. So, while their politics may be different from mine the fact is in both cases they've been very supportive of the city and what I've been trying to do."

Buckhorn’s support of Bondi’s fundraising event was scrutinized after reports that Bondi asked the Governor to postpone an execution because it conflicted with her fundraiser. Bondi called the decision wrong and apologized Tuesday. Buckhorn has also showed support in the past for Republican State Representative Dana Young.

"No, those are personal relationships. You can't run out on your friends."

Buckhorn has criticized former Governor Charlie Crist for being a swapping parties – he went from Republican to Independent and then to Democrat. Crist is rumored to be a possible front runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014. Buckhorn said he’s concerned the party doesn’t have a strong enough candidate to run against Rick Scott.

"The Republicans are going to use a lot of what he has said historically and beat him over the head with it because it's very different than what he's saying now. I get frustrated that we don't have our A team in the game."

Governor Scott’s opponent in 2010, Alex Sink, has announced she won’t run again. So far the only Democrat to announce a bid for governor is South Florida progressive Nan Rich. Buckhorn said he’s not sure if he would endorse her or not.

"Ultimately I'm going to have to work with whoever is elected. I will tell you that I've had a good relationship with Rick Scott on economic development issues. There's a lot of things I disagree with about what he has done but when it comes to some of the issues that I care about deeply, he's been a great partner and I don't make any bones about saying it. It's not likely that I would get involved in a campaign on his behalf but if someone's good to the city I'm going to thank them and I'm going to publicly thank them."

Buckhorn answered questions following a 30-minute speech to the Latino business community touting his commitment to economic development. Edwin Enciso, a local activist, asked Buckhorn if he would consider a symbolic move by the city to support immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.

"The important opportunity is for local leaders, especially the city council, to make a strong public statement in support of immigration reform. There are leaders in city council that are doing that. I think the mayor's office is willing to consider that option."

Buckhorn said he can’t speak for city council, but he has already drafted a letter of support for comprehensive immigration reform.

"You heard me say today it's our diversity that makes us stronger and immigration is a big part of that. For anybody to say to the contrary is just foolish."

He also said he supports efforts to implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act and scoffed at the recent decision by Governor Scott to bar healthcare navigators charged with helping people through the new law from county health centers. Buckhorn added the city is already coming up with ways to overcome the challenge.

"We can use our parks and recreation centers as opportunities to distribute material and information, which we are going to do. I'm going to be as active as I need to be to make the case, why this is important. Again, this is not a partisan issue to me. This is an issue of making sure that the people that I represent have an opportunity to acquire affordable, reasonable, health care coverage."

Last week, Buckhorn celebrated with Governor Scott as he announced the creation of 1,000 jobs in Tampa through a company called HealthPlan Services. Buckhorn said to the room of about 100 members of the Latino community that those jobs would not have been available without the Affordable Care Act.

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