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Jim Norman gets crushed in Hillsborough County Republican straw poll

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Jim Norman comeback story has hit a roadblock.

The former Hillsborough County Commissioner is trying to revive his political career this year as he contends for the open countywide District seat this year, but he came in a distant second to businessman Tim Schock in a straw poll vote held in the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee on Tuesday night, losing 66-13.

“I think this shows where the grassroots strength really resides in this race,” Schock said after the vote.

Before that, the two men addressed Hillsborough Republicans at the county party’s monthly meeting at MOSI in North Tampa, where they criticized the guidelines issued by the Department of Education last Friday requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom and locker rooms that correspond to their chosen gender.

“You’re going to have to take me to jail, because I would stand up against that, I think it’s absolutely wrong” Norman said, boasting about how he stood up and supporting removing gays and lesbian from the county’s Human Rights Ordinance back in the early 1990’s.

“If my daughter, my friend, went into a restroom and someone with a beard tried to follow in, they’d have to run,” Norman said, adding angrily, “So Obama can go to hell.”

Schock wasn’t as aggressive in response, but agreed with his GOP opponent that he opposed the edict.

“What they’re trying to do is wrong,” said Schock, running for county commission for the second time. “As a father, as a member of this community and as a county commissioner, not on my watch.”

In his brief speech to Republican touting his credentials, Norman took notice of the vote on the board last year that removed Sandy Murman as county chair and replaced her with Les Miller, one of only two Democrats on the seven-member board.

“The state of the affairs of electing Democratic chairmanships when we have a majority on the county commission is atrocious,” he said.

Norman served on the Board of County Commission for 18 years before opting to run state Senate in 2010. It was during that campaign that news broke that he had failed to disclose a $435,000 Arkansas vacation home “given” to his wife by the late Ralph Hughes, the late east Hillsborough County power broker and longtime friend of Norman.

The feds investigated, but later determined there was no wrongdoing. In March of 2011, Norman did admit his guilt in failing to disclose the information about the house with the Florida Commission on Ethics. He later chose not to run for reelection in 2012.

The winner of the Norman-Schock race on August 30 will take on one of four Democrats – Pat Kemp, Brian Willis, Tom Scott or John Dicks.

In two other straw polls, Hillsborough Republicans chose Rebecca Smith over Jackie Toledo in the House District 60 race, and Eddie Adams over Christine Quinn in the CD 14 race.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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