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Kevin Beckner is open to running for local (and maybe state) office in 2018

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Kevin Beckner has moved on since a disappointing loss to Pat Frank in the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court.

Beckner says he is currently studying to get his license to sell real estate in Florida. But he also acknowledges another run for political office isn’t out of the realm of possibility — and could come possibly as early as next year.

When asked if he was considering a run against Al Higginbotham in the countywide District 7 race, Beckner said it was a possibility, before dropping this minor bomblet about his former colleague.

“I just heard that Commissioner Higginbotham is going to be retiring and not running for re-election,” he told this reporter on WMNF 88.5 FM Thursday afternoon. “That’s what I just heard. We’re keeping all of our options open.”

(SPB contacted Higginbotham that afternoon, but he did not return our request for comment. He did speak, however, to the Tampa Bay Times about his decision).

Before being elected to public office in 2008 as a county commissioner, Beckner’s background was as a financial planner, which had prompted speculation in the past that the Florida Democratic Party has considered him to be a viable candidate to run for Chief Financial Officer.

“I don’t rule that out as well,” he said when asked about that possibility. “There’s a lot of needs on the state level. From the CFO’s position, one of their largest responsibilities is the stability of the insurance markets and the protection of our financial interests in Florida, and I think there’s a lot of work to be done, especially as it relates to homeowners insurance and making sure that we’re going to have financial stability when the next disaster hits the state.”

The first openly elected member of the LGBT community ever to be elected in Hillsborough County, Beckner enjoyed a sterling reputation among progressives for his work on the board over the past eight years, but some consider that reputation marred by the aggressive campaign he ran against the 86-year-old Frank last year. Though the two were considered friendly before the primary, Beckner went hard at Frank for what he said was an abdication of her responsibilities in the twelve years that she had served as clerk.

Four months after his stinging, 18-point loss to her, though, he says he regrets nothing about the campaign he waged.

“I think sometimes we don’t want to really realize that, especially when you’re dealing with a long-term serving public servant, sometimes you just view that person as an icon and that nobody should have the right to run against her or to challenge that individual. And to those who know what’s going on inside the clerk’s office, and is still going on in the clerk’s office, there are a lot of issues,” he said, specifically referring to what he called the mismanagement of funding and a lack of advancement for minorities in the office.

“She just wasn’t coming to work, and I think that was well known inside the organization, but a lot of people just didn’t want to hear the facts,” he says.

Frank turned the other cheek when asked for comment.

“The election is over, and the voters spoke loud and clear,” she said. “I thank them for their confidence in me. I am focused on four more years of public service.”

Beckner did add that he sent an email to Frank after her victory wishing her the best. “As far as I’m concerned, we made amends,” he says, adding that it was never personal, and only about the issues. “There are some media outlets that tried to portray that everything was about her age, which it was not.”

Speaking of media outlets, the former commissioner also reserves some scorn for the Tampa Bay Times, which he maintains did him wrong during the campaign, both in reporting and its editorial pages.

He said the paper didn’t print his rebuttals to their editorials, and ignored the claims he was making.

“When I went into the editorial board, I gave them the whole file of everything that we had, and they told me that was a moot point,” he said. “And although they reported on that in the past, it was not relevant today, but I’m sorry, but I have a strong disagreement with that, because when we’re running for public office, especially when you have never had the opportunity to be re-evaluated and to be one the ballot like Miss Frank had, because she had always gone unchallenged, you know, that’s part of your job history, so you’re competing for a job, so you better be able to answer or not answer to what you’ve done or not done while you’ve been on the job. You’re responsible.”

FloridaPolitics.com did reach out to the Tampa Bay Times editorial page for a response. If they do reply, we will update this post immediately.

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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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