Spectrum Bay News 9 Political Reporter Mitch Perry is looking for deeper meaning in politics and government so our local stories have more of a connection in your daily life.
In this story, he looks at 10 notable political events this decade in the Bay area.
1) The Tea Party arrives
The first big political event of the era actually began in 2009, when the Tea Party emerged as a serious political force.
While some historians would say that the true coming out for the Tea Party was on Tax Day, 2009 when protests against the federal government were held around the Bay area just months after Barack Obama was inaugurated, the true power of those times was reflected locally when talk show host Glenn Beck made an appearance at the (now defunct) Borders bookstore in Tampa in November of that year.
The former 970-WFLA radio host began working at Fox News in January 2009, and he quickly became a national voice for the nascent conservative movement.
While relatively short-lived, the arrival of more than 1,000 people at Borders to get a signed copy of Beck’s latest book showed that pushback to Obama and the Democrats controlling all levers of government was potent, epitomized a year later when a tsunami took place in national politics, with the GOP winning 63 seats in taking back the House of Representatives.
- The Republican National Convention came to Tampa
- The Florida Court struck down a state redistricting plan.
- Charlie Crist makes a political comeback.
2) Bob Buckhorn narrowly edges out Dick Greco in Tampa Mayoral primary election – and goes on to easily win in general.
No single personality dominated Tampa Bay area news coverage in “the 10’s” than former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. But it almost never happened.
Buckhorn was a wounded former public official and political pundit (for Bay News 9) in the summer of 2010 when he declared his candidacy for mayor. Having endured two straight losses at the polls following his tenure on the city council, his political future was uncertain.
Former Tampa City Councilwoman and Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita received the most votes in the March, 2011 primary, with the battle taking place on who would challenge her in the runoff.
Buckhorn narrowly edged out former Mayor Greco by just 384 votes to take second place. Three weeks later, boosted by some key endorsements, Buckhorn breezed to a 26-point victory over Ferlita.
3) Occupy Tampa takes over city park
In the fall of 2011, liberal activists calling themselves “Occupy Wall Street” took over a city park in Manhattan’s financial district, spawning a movement that spread to over 100 cities to protest what they called “the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process.”
In Tampa, local activists took over Kiley Park, adjacent to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, for several months. While many of the group’s goals have yet to be fully realized, the national impact of the movement has been given a voice in the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
4) The Republican National Convention takes place in Tampa, where the only major action is the number of complaints about the weather and hotel accommodations.
Following massive protests and arrests taking place at the RNC in St. Paul in 2008 and New York City in 2004, there was considerable attention being placed on how local law enforcement would contend with the purported thousands of masses who promised to attend the political confab taking place in Tampa at the end of August, 2012.
But in retrospect, those concerns were vastly overblown. On the first day of the convention (which was actually canceled due to fears about Hurricane Isaac), the Coalition to March on the RNC Rally – slated to draw 5,000 – didn’t even attract 500 people.
Local merchants complained about the lack of sales at their establishments, and some delegates stationed in far away hotels complained about the lack of public transportation, but at the end, the only thing the 2012 RNC will truly be remembered for was the spectacle of Clint Eastwood addressing an empty chair as the warmup for Mitt Romney to give his acceptance speech for the nomination for president.
5) In July 2016, the Florida Supreme Court strikes down the state’s GOP-drawn congressional map and orders eight seats to be redrawn for the 2016 election, including the congressional seats in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
The most immediate beneficiary of this move was Charlie Crist. That’s because the redrawing of Congressional District 13 in Pinellas County from what had been considered a swing-seat (R+2) had become overnight a majority Democratic-leaning seat. That reconfiguring led to Crist completing his political comeback by defeating Republican David Jolly in 2016.
While the high court called on the Florida Legislature to redraw those eight congressional districts (as well as all of the state senate seats), it had an effect on all 27 congressional seats. That’s why Florida’s 15th Congressional District now encompasses a large swath of eastern Hillsborough County, giving hopes to Democrats that the seat could be viable for them to swing in 2020.
6) Rick Kriseman pulls out re-election bid against former Mayor Rick Baker.
This 2017 contest between “The Two Ricks” was the biggest heavyweight contest in Tampa Bay over the past decade. It featured a former (Republican) mayor who was still popular in certain precincts and a (Democratic) incumbent who was facing some turbulence in his first term in office.
An internal Florida Democratic poll released just weeks before the August primary did not augur well for Kriseman – it showed him down by 11 percentage points. Some pundits were predicting that Baker could knock him out later that month.
Krisemam nationalized the race, associating Baker with President Trump. Baker notably refused to say who he voted for president in 2016, and shut down any conversion about that.
In the end, Kriseman held on to win by two percentage points in the November election.
7) Hillsborough County Commission votes to keep Confederate monument. Then votes to remove it. Then calls on the public to fund its removal.
Supporters of “Southern Heritage” said that they had circled Tampa as the biggest city in the Southeast where they would make a stand in stemming the flood of Confederate monument removals that began in the middle of the decade.
The Board of County Commissioners initially voted to retain the statue that had stood outside of the Hillsborough County Courthouse Annex for more than a century. That led to national headlines.
Facing a backlash in some circles, they then reversed their vote the following month and moved to remove the monumen
A month later, they came back to support a proposal that would keep the monument in front of the courthouse annex unless the private sector raised $140,000 (half the costs to move the statue). A day later, those funds were raised, with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce contributing $70,000 and another $50,000 coming from former Tampa Bay Storm owner Bob Gries.
8) Hillsborough County moves further to the left – approving two separate tax increases.
The election of two new commissioners put Democrats in local control of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners for the first time since 2004. But it was votes on two other measured that crystallized the county’s shift towards more a more progressive bent.
Like more than a dozen other counties in 2018, Hillsborough voters agreed to give themselves a (half-cent) tax increase when it came to funding their local schools.
That proposal sat next to another proposed tax increase: A charter amendment calling for a 1 percent increase in the sales tax to pay for transit, bike, pedestrian and road projects. While currently blocked because of subsequent litigation, the vote was a welcome one for local transit advocates who had been stymied by two previous countywide measures – 2010’s Moving Hilllsborough Forward and 2014’s Greenlight Pinellas. Both lost by substantial margins.
9) Jane Castor wins easily in Tampa mayoral race.
Polls taken a year out of the 2019 Tampa mayoral contest showed former police chief Jane Castor with an overwhelming lead over the competition to succeed Bob Buckhorn. And nothing changed in the intervening year, with Castor crushing David Straz in the general.
10) St. Petersburg City Council now has six females on its board.
In the November, 2019 municipal election, Deborah Figgs-Sanders narrowly edged out Trenia L. Cox in the race to succeed Steve Kornell for the District 5 seat on the St. Petersburg City Council. That means six of the eight members of the council are female.
Meanwhile, across the bay, all seven members of the Tampa City Council are male.