Bob Buckhorn talks about running for governor (and Jill Kelley) at Tampa Chamber event

"It depends upon what Alex does," Buckhorn cracked about the 2010 Democratic nominee, who was sitting at the head table next to Chamber CEO Bob Rohrlack (Sink continues to tell reporters she might run again, but won't make up her mind for awhile).


"No, I'm not. You can't get rid of me that easily," he followed as the laughter amongst the Chamber members subsided.


"I do think we need a new governor," he said, before adding that he loved being mayor ("pure joy" he described it).


Buckhorn said he might be open to running in 2018, but if he doesn't do a good enough job as mayor, "it doesn't matter six years from now."


Although much was made in the local press during Tuesday's State of the City address about his perceived slam at Rick Scott for the governor's rejection of high-speed rail funding two years ago, Buckhorn said he gets along well with the governor.


"To his credit, he's been a significant partner with us on the economic development front," he said, adding that with certain projects, "he's been a great partner with us."


"He is my governor," Buckhorn continued. "I want him to succeed, because if he succeeds then we as a state succeed."


When asked to respond to what Scott could do more of, though, Buckhorn paused and joked, "Um. How long do we have?" before insisting that he was kidding.


Buckhorn — who used to be a political analyst with the consulting group Dewey Square as well as on Bay News 9 during his interregnum between government jobs — then gave a breakdown on where he thought the governor could use some improvement.


Referring to the fact that Scott had never served in public office until he narrowly defeated Sink in 2010, Buckhorn said, "It is a very long leap to public service ... I think the ability to communicate your message and your vision is important, and I think Florida is at a point right now where we need a leader that's going to take us to that next level."


The mayor said he strongly supported one of Scott's pet projects during this legislative session: giving a tax break to businesses purchasing manufacturing equipment.


"I think that is smart. That is a good investment to help encourage manufacturers to grow, to buy more machines and I support him on that," he said.


Buckhorn fielded questions — that were prepared in advance from emails, Twitter and in one case, videotape — from Chamber members in a one-on-one setting with Chamber CEO Gregory Celestan. When asked to do a self-evaluation and acknowledge any mistakes he made in office, the mayor referenced how George W. Bush was massacred in the media when he responded that there wasn't anything he could think of when posed with that question.


"There's no training manual for being mayor," he initially responded, before quipping "I probably wouldn't have gone to Jill Kelley's house," which received a restrained and delayed guffaw from the Chamber crowd. (Buckhorn was talking about the "Tampa socialite" who became a central player in the sexual affair that led General David Petraeus to resign from the CIA last November.)


"Other than that, it's been a pretty good two years," he followed, getting a larger laugh.


The Q-and-A exchange lasted about 20 minutes, following a slightly slimmer rendition of his State of the City address that he delivered on Tuesday to an adoring crowd at the Kress building. The Chamber crowd wasn't nearly as enthusiastic, indicating that most of them had heard some version of the speech in the 24 hours since he first delivered it.


The mayor, as per usual lately, was asked to weigh in the prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays potentially moving to Tampa. His response was standard: that it's up to the Rays and St.Petersburg to deal with the club's contractual obligation to the city before he would intervene. Though he did say with some edge, "I don't think the business model in St. Petersburg works. I think the attendance proves it."

  • Bob Buckhorn faces the Chamber (of Commerce)

Let's be perfectly clear: Bob Buckhorn has never publicly told anybody that he's contemplating a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.

Nevertheless his name continues to be added to the mix when it comes to discussing who will challenge Rick Scott next year (such as in this National Journal article). Part of the speculation comes from the lack of a deep Democratic party bench, and part of it comes from Buckhorn's natural talents as an executive leading the state's third biggest city.

So during the mayor's Wednesday address at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce lunch at the newly named Hilton Tampa Downtown, it wasn't totally absurd when he was asked if he would take on Rick Scott.

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