Eric Seidel is hoping his campaign’s strategy of reaching out to independent voters will pay dividends Tuesday night in the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court’s race. The former Fox-13 consumer reporter became a political candidate for office for the first time this year, running as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Pat Frank.
“We knew because of what was happening at the top of the ticket, independents were going to be where it’s at and where the tide has turned, and that’s who we’ve been working with,” Seidel said Sunday, attending the “Souls to the Polls” event at the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. library in East Tampa.
Though there haven’t been any public polls published on the race, conventional wisdom leans towards Frank, who has held the position since 2004, and been in public office on and off for more than four decades representing Hillsborough County voters.
Frank and Kevin Beckner battled it out in one of the most toxic Democratic primaries in recent Hillsborough county history until late August, when she vanquished the county commissioner with ease. While they competed with each other, Seidel was quietly introducing himself to the electorate, who knew him in many cases because of his TV background, but didn’t know he was a candidate for office.
Realizing voters were turned off by the negative primary campaign, Seidel announced just before the General Election season kicked off that he would sign a pledge vowing to run a clean campaign, and Frank eagerly signed on as well. Seidel says he has no regrets staying above the fray in his campaign, but does hope to benefit from some of the criticism Beckner generated about conditions in the clerk’s office under Frank.
“They had a very fractious primary, and I think that works to our advantage,” Seidel says, adding that “peeling off a good percentage of Democratic votes is part of our strategy, making sure that they realize — look, these things that were said out there? We’re not necessarily going to repeat them, but if you feel you want some better representation and some leadership, people who are going to come in and roll up their sleeves and come into work, yeah, this is who you want to go with.”
Seidel’s selling point as to why voters should prefer him over Frank is that he would bring better customer service to the citizenry who patronize the clerk’s office. “I think we have made a distinction,” he says about his emphasis on that element of the job.
But will it be enough? Seidel raised over $119,000 in the race, compared to Frank’s $166,000 in contributions. He says he’s proud of the squeezing as much as he could from his donations to run radio, television, and billboard ads. “I’m confident that we’ve done everything we could.”