In one of the most contentious race in the Tampa Bay region, Pat Frank crushed Kevin Beckner in the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Courts.
With all 340 precincts reporting, Frank defeated Beckner, 59 percent to 41 percent.
The 86-year-old Frank has held the position since 2004, but was faced with a serious opponent in Beckner, who is term-limited out of office in November after eight years on the county commission.
The race divided the Hillsborough Democratic community establishment from the jump, with some angered Beckner had opted to challenge Frank, long considered an icon in Hillsborough politics. Others felt he was justified and not subtly hinted that it was time for new blood in the office.
It was also clouded with controversy about why Beckner had entered the race. He claimed that he had received Frank’s blessing months before making his announcement that he was running for the office in the spring of 2015, saying Frank had told him she intended to retire.
Not so, replied Frank, who immediately won the endorsements of some of the area’s top Democrats like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Others were critical of Beckner off the record, saying they wished he would have run for one of the many other races where the Hillsborough Dems were looking for quality candidates.
Beckner and his campaign manager, Nick Janovsky, went aggressively after Frank and her conduct in office — too aggressive, some said. He challenged her work ethic, her lack of promoting women and minorities in her office, and even of being insufficiently loyal to President Obama.
Over the weekend, Tampa Bay Times columnist Daniel Ruth wrote, “Should Beckner lose, he will face a challenging road to rebuild a damaged reputation for being a good man. After all, this is a candidate who has spent the last few months politically mugging an 86-year-old woman.”
Beckner says he has no regrets about the race, and says he won’t endorse Frank in the general election, which isn’t expected to be nearly so contentious — that’s the intention of Republican Eric Seidel, who signed a pledge earlier this month vowing to run a clean campaign for the general.
“I have always run positive campaigns and I will continue to do so,” responded Frank. “I commend Eric Seidel for his approach and hope it continues through the General Election when I fully expect to be the Democratic nominee.”
A certain celebrity factor could give Seidel the boost he needs in trying to dethrone Frank in November.
A consumer reporter for WTVT-Fox 13 for two decades, Seidel’s name and face appeared in the living rooms of Hillsborough County voters. He may pose a threat based simply on the fact that he’s a recognizable quantity.