By Jim Bleyer
The sweet smell of money is an aphrodesiac to political operatives whose main focus is to sell hope to a hopeless candidate, not trying to elect the poor schmuck.
Countless examples abound in Florida of self-touting political insiders with woeful campaign resumés hooking up with deep-pocketed, egotistical candidates with no personality, no grasp of issues, no contemporary thinking, and a blank slate in local government experience.
That fairly describes David Straz, the billionaire who is widely reported ready and willing to spend $2 million in order to leapfrog four far better qualified candidates in Tampa’s marathon mayoral campaign.
I talked to Straz at his open to the public spaghetti dinner Sunday at the Italian Club in Tampa. Outside of a couple of media people, it was south Tampa socialites mixing with longtime political grifters. No voters to convince. A dry run that aborted.
“I’m looking at that” is his programmed response when asked about important current issues whether they relate to a taxpayer-subsidized baseball stadium or half-cent sales tax for transit. His handlers believe that answer is much preferred over “I don’t know.”
My experience jibes with what spies report about Straz’ orchestrated “listening tour.” If I had a quarter for every “I’m looking at that” he has uttered, I would have a private jet on 24-hour standby.
Straz stands ready to lead Tampa into the 19th century…..BC.
The cabal behind this empty tuxedo is promoting the fiction that polls show he is the only potential candidate that can beat the former police chief Jane Castor. Totally nonsensical.
But there’s a ton of money at stake for these operatives who have to do nothing more than stroke the ego of a 75-year-old elitist who supported Donald Trump and propagandize to the gullible. My question: what poll? The only two local ones are totally unreliable; they are not impartial and promote agendas. Their track records are abysmal.
While there is no hope that Straz can beat Castor, even with a $10 million war chest, any of the three other potential mayoral candidates are fully capable of winning: city council members Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, and former County Commissioner and civic activist Ed Turanchik.
Three city council members have sold their political futures in backing the farcical Straz candidacy: Yolie Capin, Frank Reddick, and Guido Maniscalco.
After eight years of suffering through a self-aggrandizing mayor short on substance or any progressive thought, Tampa has been lapped by other cities in its quest for high-tech jobs and Millennials.
The average big city Millennial population hovers around 27 percent. Millennial meccas such as Portland, San Jose, Seattle, Austin, the Research Triangle, and Boston boast higher percentages. Tampa’s Millennials account for 20.7 percent of the population.
This is a demographic worth competing for. All those cities are prospering. Millennials are the most tech-savvy and socially progressive generation. Tampa cannot afford manmade climate change denial, the targeting of people of color by police, and the desire to gun down journalists. All made national headlines under the present administration that, parenthetically, has failed to address a crumbling infrastructure.
The anti-Castor faction is so obsessed with defeating the former police chief that they have subordinated the well being of their city to revenge for perceived slights. Straz, the Trumpite, has already voiced his disdain for Millennials and cannot connect to the working class or contemporary thought.
At a NextGen gathering Sunday night, the demographic that Straz maligned met to discuss its mission in helping shape Tampa next year and beyond. It was a meeting that candidates aspiring for city hall would have found worthwhile.
One potential local candidate, who has been heavily involved in civic issues for decades, asked a question on the minds of many Tampa residents: “What makes Straz think he should be mayor with no record of civic engagement?”
Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists looking to relocate or establish businesses would scoff at Tampa if Straz was the face of the city.
Straz has already shown he has no grasp of any generation but his own. He’s a rich curmudgeon with no government experience and no knowledge of the issues. He’s a loser willing to blow millions on a quixotic mission. Tampa cannot afford the distraction if it wishes to be taken seriously as a city on the move and not a punchline.