By Jim Bleyer
Tampa mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik kicked off his campaign Monday emphasizing housing, innovation, and transit as the underpinning of a year-long quest to lead an underachieving city.
He unveiled the “HIT” show before a crowd of 500 high-powered civic movers and shakers, several of whom are promoting the building of a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium on the backs of taxpayers.
Most residents of Tampa and Hillsborough County oppose a subsidized stadium, the reason proponents like businessman Charles Sykes, attorney Ron Christaldi, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan are circumventing a public referendum.
Christaldi and Tampa Bay Rays executive and community front man Bryan Auld were among the invitees to Turanchik’s event as well as conservative dinosaurs Jack Harris and Ted Webb.
The stadium is the third rail in the mayor and city council races that culminate in early April, 2019. No one is touching it publicly but all candidates must eventually address the issue. They will have to decide if contributions from moneyed interests will translate into a majority of votes.
Turanchik has told Tampa Bay Beat both before and after his kickoff event that he opposes a subsidized stadium in Ybor City.
Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is looking for a government handout in the hundreds of millions of dollars to relocate his team’s stadium from St. Petersburg to Tampa. A shiny new stadium, even without the ludicrously overestimated attendance increase of 10,000 fans per game, would boost the value of Sternberg’s franchise to stratospheric heights.
The 2019 election will be a departure for Tampa; the old-time crowd that has been running the city for the benefit of a few will be challenged from an energized movement of older progressives and an explosion of activity from the Tom Steyer-sponsored NextGen America movement.
NextGen is on a mission throughout Florida to not only register Millennials and the Reform Generation as voters but to transform their pent up frustration at “business as usual” into a burst of activism. Some will run for office.
Besides Turanchik, declared mayoral candidates include City Councilman Harry Cohen, motivational guru Topher Morrison, and political unknown Michael Anthony Hazard. Billionaire David Straz has formed an exploratory committee. It is expected former police chief Jane Castor and City Councilman Mike Suarez will join the field.
Progressives are looking at Turanchik with a heavy dose of skepticism. He no longer can count on them as a natural constituency. He will have to earn their trust.
Stating Monday night that public education will be the “home run” that brings together his HIT program, was a glaringly unwise metaphor. Turanchik’s slide show made a big deal out of his participation in building the downtown hockey arena. And it is common knowledge that he supports incumbent Republican Sandy Murman in her bid for another term on the Hillsborough County Commission.
There are timeless political commandments. One of them is that no candidate ever won a race trying to be all things to all people.