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Political group considering campaign to recall Sandy Murman

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A political action committee called “Conservative Response Team” is considering organizaing an effort to recall Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman after her vote to remove a Confederate monument. 

Murman was one of four Republican commissioners who rejected a motion in June to remove the controversial statue, entitled “Memoria In Aeterna,” from in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex. The monument was dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911.

That vote elicited harsh criticism from Democrats, the Tampa Bay Times editorial page, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, among others.

After Democrat Les Miller announced that he would bring the measure back up for a vote, Commissioner Victor Crist announced he would reverse his vote, adding that he would not be attending the meeting in question.

That meant that when the issue came back before the board last week, it was still unknown if another of the original four Republicans would flip to join Miller, Democrat Pat Kemp and fellow Republican Al Higginbotham to remove the statue. That reversal became Murman, who said she changed her mind after learning of South Tampa attorney Tom Scarritt‘s decision to lead a crowdsourcing campaign to raise the money to move the statue to a new site.

With that, Murman said she could now support the issue.

“This to me was a fiscal issue,” Murman said after the vote. “I did not want county dollars to go to the relocation of the statue.” She went on to say however that she hoped that the statue would not have to be relocated but “because of the community and because there is no financial obligation from the county that stands in the way, I don’t see how anybody could not support this.”

Not much is known about the “Conservative Response Team,” a 501(c)(4), which paid for radio ads to appear on 970 WFLA over the past month advocating that the monument stay in place. A group with the same title was involved in a robocall to thousands of people in South Carolina in advance of the decision in 2015 to remove the Confederate Flag from its capitol complex.

“We’re in the process of gathering funds and meeting with donors to do a potential recall effort, and we’re already working on the 200-word petition,” a member of the group who wished to remain anonymous told FloridaPolitics.com. “I’m not sure if we’re going to move forward or not, but we are in the process of doing so.”

According to Florida statute 100.361, in a district of more than 25,000 or more registered electors, the petition must be signed by at least 1,000 electors or by 5 percent of the total number of registered electors of the municipality or district as of the preceding municipal election, whichever is greater.

There were 214,418 registered voters in District 1 last November. Members of the group would require at least 11,000 signatures to get the issue on the ballot in Hillsborough County.

An official with the recall group says they are working with Doug Guetzloe, the Orlando-based anti-tax crusader who has worked on several recall campaigns in Orange County. He did not wish to comment for this story.

Under Florida election law, the grounds for removal from office are limited to: malfeasance; misfeasance; neglect of duty; drunkenness; incompetence; permanent inability to perform official duties; and conviction of a felony involving mortal turpitude.

The official with the Conservative Response Team who prefers on being anonymous said that the reason for the recall was that it was important that Republicans “need to hold true to their conservative roots.”

Murman has served on the Board of County Commissioners since 2010. In November, she was just reelected to her District 1 seat for another four years, but has already indicated that she will step down from the seat next year to run for a new four-year term in 2018 for countywide District 7.

Before last week’s vote, County Administrator Mike Merrill said that the county had made an agreement with the owner of a Brandon cemetery to relocate the monument there. County officials met at the cemetery Monday.

Murman did not return a call for comment.

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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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