A week before deadline, mayor not in race
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 12:06 a.m.
Three years ago, Tom Bussing was a surprise candidate for mayor, waiting until minutes before the qualifying deadline to submit his candidacy papers.
This year, Bussing's timing might not be much different.
With just more than a week left until the Jan. 23 qualifying deadline for this year's City Commission elections, Bussing has kept mum about his plans for his future, even to his supporters.
The election will be on March 9.
But his decision is being anxiously awaited by those interested in local politics.
Currently, C.B. Daniel, a banker, and Pegeen Hanrahan, an engineer and hazardous materials manager, are the only candidates in the race. Both registered for the mayoral race nearly eight months ago.
The pair also have a head start over Bussing in fund raising. Daniel has raised $31,225, and Hanrahan has raised $20,733, according to their more recent campaign finance reports.
Bussing has not raised any money because he is not yet a candidate.
The fact that nobody else has registered for the mayoral race suggests that people don't want to run against Daniel and Hanrahan, said Chuck Floyd, chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Party.
"With the caliber of the candidates that are running in the mayor's race, I think people are aware it would be difficult to challenge them," he said.
The mayor earns an annual salary of $32,996.
Daniel, 64, is chairman of the southern division of CNB National Bank, and has never run for public office. He is a former member of the Florida Board of Regents and chairman of the State University System Finance Committee and a past president of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Hanrahan, 37, is executive director of the Florida Conservation Alliance and served two terms on the City Commission before stepping down in 2002 because of term limits.
In the District 4 race, the only other City Commission race this spring, only one candidate - incumbent Commissioner Craig Lowe - has registered. District 4 includes the University of Florida and the Duck Pond, Kirkwood and College Park neighborhoods.
Bussing's track record
When Bussing decided to run for election in 2001, some Gainesville homeowners were afraid their neighborhoods would be hurt by new development allowed under the city's industrial zoning and infill policies.
Bussing, considered a dark horse candidate in the race, capitalized on their concerns thanks to his record of fighting against a cement plant in Newberry and a concrete batch plant off U.S. 441.
Bussing's supporters say the mayor, a computer consultant with a doctorate in materials science, will make decisions that would protect Gainesville's established neighborhoods and the environment. But if he decides to run, he likely will face criticism from those who say he has done a poor job of managing City Commission meetings, which often run past their 11 p.m. deadline.
"There are many who are disturbed about the way he runs meetings. They think he drags them out too long and talks too much," Floyd said.
During a tense November 2001 commission meeting, Commissioner Tony Domenech snapped at Bussing for talking out of turn and asked the mayor to "step out back." Other commissioners, including Warren Nielsen, have said Bussing uses his position as mayor to give his views more airtime.
Bussing's supporters say the bottom line is his voting record, not how he interacts with other commissioners.
"Some people have complained about his style, and that doesn't really matter to me," said Scott Camil, who worked closely with Bussing during his 2001 campaign.
Camil said Bussing likely will consult with his family before he makes a decision on whether or not to seek re-election, and will consider how much he can accomplish if he serves another term.
"He's going to weigh whether he feels he's been effective, whether he feels he's done a good job, and whether he can feels he can continue to do a good job," Camil said.
When Bussing says that he doesn't know if he will run, he means it, said Mark Goldstein, a Bussing supporter in 2001.
"The thing about Tom is he's honest to a fault. He will not give you a phony answer," he said.
Slicing the 'pie'
Daniel, Hanrahan and Bussing are all Democrats.
Although city elections are technically nonpartisan, Bussing's possible entry into the race could cause headaches for local Democratic Party officials - especially if a Republican candidate enters the race.
Travis Horn, chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee, said divisions already are shaping up within the Democratic Party "because people are going to square up on different ends of the spectrum with Pegeen and C.B."
If Bussing enters the race, he could further split the Democratic vote, he said.
"I think that's really going to cut up the pie for them. I think that's going to leave an extraordinary opening for a Republican to come in," said Horn, who claims there's a "70 percent chance" a Republican will enter the race.
Daniel could benefit most if Bussing runs, Horn said.
Hanrahan, who supported things such as cleaning up pollution at Depot Avenue and Main Street, likely will get the undivided support of the environmentalist community - unless Bussing runs, Camil said.
"People are split. I know people are supporters of both of them," he said.
Ashley Rowland can be reached at (352) 374-5095 or email@example.com.
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