March for Our Lives in Tampa Notable for Politicos Who Attended–and Those Who Didn’t


Photo by Beth Eriksen Shoup

By Jim Bleyer

The March for Our Lives, Tampa edition, drew an estimated 13,000 participants with candidates and would-be hopefuls making a firm statement by their presence—-or absence.

From reports gleaned from the field, not one Republican supported the Millennial and Reform Generations, giving credence to widespread accusations that the GOP has been totally co-opted by the National Rifle Association.

The “family values” canard that has served Republicans well since the Reagan years has run its course in this pivotal election year.  And young people are registering to vote in droves.

Florida House candidate Debra Bellanti (left) and Wendy Malloy of Moms Demand Action at Saturday’s march. Bellanti is mounting a serious challenge to NRA backed incumbent State Rep. Jackie Toledo.

It was a mixed bag for three former Republicans who changed their registration to either No Party Affiliation or Democrat in anticipation of nonpartisan City of Tampa races a year from now.  Nonpartisan in name only, Democratic voters hold sway in the city.

Former police chief Jane Castor, whose regime had rocky race relations, showed up.  Although an unannounced candidate, Castor has the mayorship in her crosshairs.

Her messaging during the campaign should be fascinating but in her corner is politically-astute public relations pro Ana Cruz.  Castor has flipped her registration from Republican to Democrat.

Avowed Trump voter and billionaire David Straz should have put his mug on the side of a milk carton.  His campaign has been leaking water from the onset and for all practical purposes, has been suspended.  His “exploratory” PAC hasn’t reported any donations for the past two reporting periods.  He changed his registration from Republican to NPA.

Former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, an announced mayoral candidate, reported he was down with a case of the flu.  From Turanchik, “I missed everything this weekend including the memorial service for the wife of a good friend…..beset by flu.  Just an awful weekend.”

Another announced candidate, author and motivational speaker Topher Morrison did not attend and did not reply for requests to comment from Tampa Bay Beat.  Political unknown Michael Hazard, the first to qualify for mayor,  may have attended but there is nothing on social media to suggest he was at the march.

Putative mayoral candidates Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen, both city councilmen, were visible and participated.

Perennial candidate Joe Citro, another Republican turned Democrat, was nowhere to be seen.  Citro, running for the citywide District 1 seat, said this, “ I work on Saturdays, and my schedule was full from 7:00-5:00. If I know an event is going to be held two or three weeks in advance I will make ever effort to ensure I’m there.”

Meanwhile, young activist John Godwin, who works at MacDill AFB, and is eyeing the same seat, participated in the march.

Candidates for the State House, Fentrice Driskell and Debra Bellanti, participated in the event.  They are challenging NRA-backed incumbents Shawn Harrison and Jackie Toledo, respectively, two of the most vulnerable incumbents in the Florida Legislature.  Toledo and Harrison, who won office by slender margins, tout family values when it suits their campaign narrative.

Most all of the Democratic candidates for the Hillsborough County Commission were at the march.  The 5-2 edge that the Republicans enjoy on the commission is expected to change.

The biggest surprise?  Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn,  not known for being socially or environmentally progressive, attended.   The term-limited Buckhorn could be plucked to complete a Democratic gubernatorial ticket headed by Phil Levine or Gwen Graham.  Labeling either as a “centrist” would be generous as, like Buckhorn, they are considered de facto Republicans by most progressives.

The young people that led the Saturday event plan to carry their cause to the polls in November.  They will remember the adults that marched at their side.



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