Activist and military veteran Jae Passmore has become the latest Democrat to seek election to the Hillsborough County Commission.
This past summer, the 28-year-old HART bus driver and community activist played a prominent role in the drive to remove a controversial Confederate monument from in front of a Hillsborough court building. It was the frustration of watching how current county commissioners dealt with that issue that persuaded Passmore to enter the countywide District 5 race.
“If we are appealing to these commissioners to do the right thing, we’re doing phone banking, calling and emailing them, and they still chose to not do the right thing,” the Tampa Heights resident lamented during a phone interview Saturday. “It’s time to stop electing people hoping they have our best interest in mind, and start running.”
“The people who are on the ground fighting for change in these neighborhoods, doing food drives, registering people to vote, the people who are making change in our communities, need to be the people in elected seats to carry out that change.”
Passmore is a member of the Florida National Guard and was active before and after Hurricane Irma. She was one of the thousands of Guard members activated by Gov. Rick Scott to assist in recovery efforts after the storm.
Passmore also served two tours of duty overseas. In 2010, she was with an infantry unit, performing convoy missions from Kuwait to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. She last deployed in 2015 to Djibouti for Operation Enduring Freedom.
The District 5 seat will be open in 2018, but veteran Republican lawmaker Victor Crist has announced that he will attempt to extend his career by running for the seat. Crist served in the Florida Legislature from 1992 to 2010 and has represented District 2 on the County Commission for the past eight years.
Term-limited, Crist is one of two Hillsborough Republicans on the current board hoping for another four to eight years in office by running for a new seat (Ken Hagan is the other). Another Republican, Sandy Murman, was just elected to a four-year term in 2016, but will run for a different seat in 2018, possibly adding another two years to her tenure on the commission.
“Victor Crist has name recognition but that doesn’t mean anything,” says Passmore. “I’m focusing on myself and what electing me can mean for the people of Hillsborough County.”
Passmore is running on a platform of change with three main principals: Unity, diversity and progress.
It won’t be easy.
Passmore is well aware that Hillsborough voters have never elected a black candidate countywide. But why not now, she asks.
“If you look at the board now, you have five Republicans: five men and two women. You don’t have the diversity that Hillsborough County is represented on the BOCC. I am a single mother, I am a combat veteran of two deployments, I’m a union member, I’m a community activist, and I am running for County Commission for District 5 because I feel like … all of my unique experiences, all of those things will help me change Hillsborough County for the better.”
Passmore joins a growing list of young people of color throwing their proverbial hat into the ring for open county commission seats. Sky White and Charles Davis have filed to run in District 7 and Elvis Pigott is running for the District 5 seat.