Hillsborough County Commission District 6 Tiger Bay debate dominated by transportation issues

No race on the ballot in Hillsborough County this year has a richer field of candidates than the County Commission District 6 seat, with no less than six serious players vying to win the countywide seat being vacated by a term-limited Kevin Beckner this fall.

In a stultifying warm room at the Ferguson Center of Law in downtown Tampa Friday, all of those candidates, with the exception of Republican Jim Norman, came before the Tampa Tiger Bay Club, where transportation issues like Go Hillsborough and the Tampa Bay Express project dominated the discussion.

Moderator Vic DiMaio said that Norman had canceled because his father is suffering from health problems, but it might have been a wise move for the controversial former commissioner, who would decidedly not be in his element in the left-leaning Tampa Tiger Bay audience.

“We need new ideas,” said Norman’s lone primary challenger, small-business man Tim Schock, in his brief introductory speech. “We need big ideas, not the same stale game of musical chairs played by the same politicians, looking for the next office. That’s not what we need.”

Schock was undoubtedly referring to Norman, who served in local and state elected office for two decades before opting not to run for re-election in 2012 after the controversy over a vacation home purchased by his wife became a legal nightmare for him beginning in 2010.

Although he made an initial splash when he raised $84,000 in his first full month of fundraising last fall, he hasn’t come close to that figure ever since, and was embarrassed in a straw poll of Hillsborough County Republicans earlier in the week.

At 33, Tampa attorney Brian Willis is by far the youngest candidate in the race, and he too is running on a platform of bringing new leadership to county government.

“I’m the new generation of leadership for this community,” he said. “When we win, we’re not going to change just one seat, we’re going to bring a whole fresh perspective to this community.”

One of those politicians who has been around for a while and is running again is former County Commissioner and Tampa City Council chairman Thomas Scott, who has been out of office for five years now. Scott’s acumen on county government served him well at different parts of the nearly hour-and-a-half event, particularly when he said that currently every nonprofit agency that receives county funding is already subjected to an audit.

The Senior pastor at the 34th Street Church in East Tampa, Scott roamed the space in front of him from left to right when addressing the audience as if he was back in church, and was never more poignant than when discussing how his 32-year-old brother died of AIDS when asked whether he supported legalizing medical marijuana (the issue will come before Florida voters on the state ballot this fall).

“The last days of his life were very critical,” he recounted with emotion. “He said to me ‘will you drive me around for my last time?’ I put him in my car and I drove him around town. To see the sunshine, see the city, see the beauty of what God had created. I saw him suffer his last few minutes of his life … I support medical marijuana and the passage of it because I think it will help those who are terminally ill and need some relief.”

Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft — who officially are still out of compliance in Hillsborough and thus illegal here though they have been operating for over two years — came up at one point during the discussion.

It came when disability rights advocate Ben Ritter asked if the candidates would compel those companies to provide accessible transportation for the disabled to the same degree that the taxicab industry is held.

Several of the candidates didn’t answer the question head-on, but Schock said he would like to see “some percentage of their fleet have those options available,” and said that could be negotiated as part of their being allowed to operate in the county.

Willis said he disagreed with the idea of regulating Uber and Lyft like the cab companies, leaving unsaid whether or not he was OK with their current policy when it comes to serving the disabled.

With the now likely proposition that the sales tax referendum for transportation called Go Hillsborough has apparently risen from the dead to once again become a campaign issue this year, the candidates then talked explicitly about their views on the proposed half-cent sales tax referendum that may go before voters this fall which would last 15 years (the board votes next month on putting that measure on the November ballot).

Schock said the Board of County Commissioners instantly rejected his proposal at last month’s public hearing on the measure to make the tax for only five years. He denounced the BOCC for doing so, saying, “that’s about hubris and vanity.”

Schock said county voters can’t trust the board with a 30-year tax.

Former Plant City Mayor John Dicks called it “a travesty” that the current board has nothing to show for nearly three years of work on the Go Hillsborough proposal.

As a member of the Tampa Bay Sierra Club, Pat Kemp has been critical of the proposal for a sales tax to pay for transportation since last summer.

“It’s not a 21st century plan to look forward to the future,” she said Friday. “What we’re going to need to look at the CSX rails and converting them for commuter use” (such a study is scheduled to be conducted in 2017).

The Sierra Club’s opposition to the Go Hillsborough plan as initially presented last summer was a significant issue, as they teamed up members of the local Tea Party in Hillsborough County to advocate for raising the gas tax and mobility fees as a first step before going to the ballot box. They’ve also kept up the campaign of sorts that there are existing funds in the budget that could be tapped to first before a referendum.

A key member of that coalition, former County Commissioner and Tampa mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik, said the county would bring in additional billions this year that they could spend on transportation, and then asked the candidates if they were “tax and spend” county commissioners or a “spend well and tax in the last resort” county commissioner.

That question fired up Scott and Willis.

“Do you think a billion dollars is going to change our transportation problem?” Scott asked, walking right up to Turanchik, who sat in one of the closest tables up front facing the candidates.

He added that while Go Hillsborough “wasn’t a perfect plan,” it was a “good enough start,” a line that Dicks echoed.

“You’re taking money that is dedicated to going to other places,” Willis said about the idea of using funds in the budget to pay for transportation, an argument made frequently recently by County Administrator Mike Merrill.

The Board of Commissioners last week rejected doing that as well when they held a variety of votes on other potential sources of revenue, leading to the passage earlier this week of a bringing the Go Hillsborough proposal back up again.

“That growth? There’s a little thing called inflation, Ed,” Willis continued, with an edge in his voice. “I’m committed to fighting the Tea Party, who’s never supported any transit, in fighting for transit in this community … I’m committed to working with everybody, Ed. I’ll even work with you on the commission.”

The line got cheers, but Turanchik wouldn’t be denied a comeback.

“So you’ll work with everybody but the Tea Party?” he asked.

Regarding the Tampa Bay Express, the Florida Dept. of Transportation proposal that would add express toll lanes on I-275 and literally cut into the Seminole Heights/Tampa Heights area of Tampa, Dicks and Schock said they supported it, while the other three Democrats – Willis, Kemp and Scott – oppose it.

Dicks did admonish the DOT (ever so slightly) for displaying a lack of sensitivity to the concerns of the local neighborhoods that would be adversely impacted by the transportation project, saying that they “could do a much better job than what they’ve done in reaching out.”

He also said that rejecting the project means the DOT will just spend the billions earmarked for it on another project in the state.

Kemp, a Seminole Heights resident, has been made herself a presence at local government meetings over the past year in denouncing TBX. “It’s a sprawl machine to bring people down from Pasco County,” she said.

A national study released a year ago showed that Hillsborough County ranked 98th out of 100 of the nation’s largest counties when it comes to income mobility for poor families.

Willis called that statistic “a devastating indictment of the last several decades of leadership” in the county, and said the county needed to create “pathways to prosperity” to address that ranking. Schock said it showed how wrongheaded business officials are in Hillsborough for trying to recruit major corporations to relocate here, as opposed to cultivating small local businesses and entrepreneurs. As evidence, he cited Fortune 500 companies that reside in his home state of Minnesota. “Why? Because they started there. …we lose more Fortune 500 companies here doing it the way we’re doing it than we gain.”

The candidates have the whole long hot summer to continue to debate the issues, as the primary elections for both races don’t take place until Aug. 30. In the meantime, it might behoove the organizers of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club to either A) find a way to literally reduce the temperatures in the hall that they say will have two meetings a month the rest of the summer, or B) find a new place to hold their meetings. Although the audience was a large and enthusiastic one for Friday’s discussion, several people ducked out before the end, unable to enjoy themselves with the lack of sufficient air conditioning made the viewing uncomfortable.

(If you’d like to watch this debate,  it will be aired in its entirety by Tampa Bay Arts & Education channel on Friday, June 3rd on Verizon/Frontier 32 and Broighthouse?Charter 635).

 

Mitch Perry Report for 5.19.16 – The yin and yang of Donald J. Trump

Let’s talk about somebody I assiduously generally eschew writing about in this space, Donald Trump.

(That’s not to make any editorial point at all. It’s just that there’s so much going on in news and politics right now, and you can get your Trump fill a thousand other places on the internet).

On Tuesday, Trump told Reuters that he’s willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program, which, as the Reuters reporter notes, is a major shift in U.S. policy toward the isolated nation.

Trump also said he would press China, North Korea’s only major diplomatic and economic supporter, to help find a solution. “I would put a lot of pressure on China because economically we have tremendous power over China,” he said. “China can solve that problem with one meeting or one phone call.”

There’s no doubt that Trump has an incredibly elevated view of his own negotiating skills, and maybe such talks would go nowhere.

But why keep on doing the same thing, and getting the same result?

Remember eight years ago, when Barack Obama angered Hillary Clinton and the entire U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment by saying that not only would be meeting with officials from Pyongyang, but also with Iran and Cuba.

“How naive,” came the response from that Establishment. Well, Obama hasn’t met with the North Korean leadership, but as we all know, he led the negotiations to get a deal to delay Iran’s nuclear program, and made the rapprochement with Cuba a year-and-a-half ago.

Both moves have been incredibly controversial. Critics would say the Iran deal has made us less safe, others disagree. But like a lot of things in our world, just doing things that we do because we’ve always done them deserves to be shaken up. Give Trump for at least having an open mind on this case.

Before we leave Trump, we all know that he’s made some incredibly incendiary remarks have pissed off a lot of people around the world, and that isn’t good. Such as his call for a temporary ban on Muslims.

We know Republicans like Paul Ryan, David Jolly and others have been repulsed by that comment. So apparently was the late Robert Bennett, the former Republican senator from Utah who just passed away. In an extraordinary piece in today’s Daily Beast, writer Tim Mak recounts how as Bennett was dying from cancer, he asked to meet each Muslim staying in the same hospital he was staying in Washington D.C.

“In the last days of his life, this was an issue that was pressing in his mind … disgust for Donald Trump’s xenophobia,” Jim Bennett (his son) said. “At the end of his life, he was preoccupied with getting things done that he had felt was left undone.”

Check it out.

In other news …

Déjà Vu — The Hillsborough County Commission will hold a public hearing next month on whether to place the Go Hillsborough transportation tax on the ballot in November.

Don’t call it a comeback, yet anyhow. Jim Norman got skunked in a straw poll against District 6 GOP opponent Tim Schock on Tuesday.

Rebecca Smith topped Jackie Toledo in that same straw poll among Hillsborough County Republicans in the HD 60 race.

How unpopular is the Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton matchup? Bad enough that 65 percent of adults surveyed in a new poll say they’d serious consider a third-party candidate.

CD 11 GOP candidates Justin Grabelle and Daniel Webster are starting to mix it up.

Hillsborough County State Attorney hopeful Andrew Warren releases his proposal to get the community more involved with the office.

Jim Norman gets crushed in Hillsborough County Republican straw poll

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.

Brian Willis adds to his fundraising lead in Democratic Hillsborough County District 6 contest

Tampa attorney Brian Willis raised over $9,000 in his race for the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 seat last month, and leads all Democrats in fundraising in the race with $86,233.

In a statement, Willis noted that his total number of contributors outranks the other three Democrats in the race – attorney and Sierra Club official Pat Kemp, former Plant City Mayor John Dicks, and former county commissioner and Tampa city council member Tom Scott.

“The hard work we put in meeting with voters across the entire county for more than a year has allowed us to build a countywide campaign.” Willis said, “voters see a chance to elect new leadership and are giving my campaign their support.”

Willis also notes that he helped found the pro-transit group Connect Tampa Bay, and registered disappointment with the County Commission’s rejection of putting the Go Hillsborough half-cent sales tax referendum on the ballot last month.

“I’ve have been working locally and regionally to improve transportation since graduating from law school and returning home,” he said. ‘My supporters know that I am going to fight for a better transportation system. The County Commission’s refusal to let the people vote on the transportation plan has shown voters why we need new leadership. Traditional politicians are not going to solve our problems.”

Dicks reported raising $6,302 in April, while Scott raised $1,175. Kemp has yet to post her numbers with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

The four Democrats will face off in the August 30 primary. The winner will take on the victor in the GOP primary between Jim Norman and Tim Schock. Neither man had filed their take for April as of late Tuesday afternoon.

 

 

Tom Lee is considering a run in Hillsborough County this year — but for what seat?

Tom Lee is facing eviction from the state Legislature this fall due to redistricting, but now says he is seriously eyeing a possible run for office in Hillsborough County in 2016.

The Brandon Republican told FloridaPolitics.com he decide within the next few weeks where his political destination lies, and it could be a county commission seat.

“I’m thinking about my family and my professional interests and trying to get a sense of how those might play into me continuing to spend my life 270 miles away from home,” Lee said Thursday in Tampa Heights, where he participated in a news conference celebrating the $1.2 million appropriation he sponsored in the Senate that will provide for the physical relocation of the Tampa Heights Youth Development & Community Center.

My passion really is my community,” he said. “It’s what motivated me to serve to begin with and the thought of coming home and serving here somewhere locally, whether it be as an appointed official or an elected official is something that’s very appealing to me.”

Lee served this past session as the Senate Appropriations Chairman, and with his years of experience is a respected measure of the Legislature.

But that meant little after a new Senate map drawn up by a voting rights group and approved by a state judge eliminated his Brandon-based Senate District 24 seat, cutting into two separate districts — none that realistically allowed him a path forward for re-election.

His comment that he is taking a good look at his possibilities of serving locally translate into a couple of potential opportunities.

One obvious one would be the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 seat, an open countywide race. There are currently two Republicans running there — former County Commissioner and state Senator Jim Norman, and South Tampa small-business owner Tim Schock.

Norman’s advantage over Schock is his tremendous name recognition after serving in the county from 1992-2010. But Norman also comes with extensive negatives following the 2010 scandal involving a gift home purchased for his wife that led him in part to step down from running for re-election to his senate seat in 2012 (Norman says that he was essentially redistricted out of his seat or he would have run again). Lee’s chances could be strong to win the primary and face the Democrat in that race.

Another elected position that he might consider is Supervisor of Elections, if he were so interested.

Although Democratic incumbent Craig Latimer is considered to be doing a solid job with no obvious issues, he is running unopposed to date. Lee’s strong name ID would make him a serious contender.

Or he could sit things out.

“Whether now’s the right time?” he asked rhetorically on Thursday. “We’re probably going to take the month of April and try to figure that out.”

The deadline to file to run in Hillsborough County is June 20.

Mitch Perry Report for 4.6.16 – Alan Grayson and the hedge funds

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders won big-time in Wisconsin Tuesday night, but you already knew that.

Did you know that the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team won their fourth straight NCAA championship Tuesday night, or that the Golden State Warriors stunningly lost in O.T. in Oakland, requiring them to sweep their remaining four games of the season if they’re to break the Chicago Bulls 72-10 best regular season record?

In the Florida political world, the biggest story by far was the announcement by a U.S. House Ethics Panel that there is “substantial reason to believe” that U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson violated federal laws and House rules regarding the hedge fund he runs, his personal disclosures, and the use of official resources for campaign work.

However (and this is important), although the Ethics panel said in a statement that it would continue to review the matter, it didn’t create an investigative subcommittee. So the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate began spinning that furiously Tuesday as an outright victory for him.

“I think what that means, to be blunt, is that the show is over,” Grayson said. “It would be literally unprecedented for anything else to happen as a result of these complaints … There’ll be no further discussion, debate, announcements, referrals and certainly no sanctions of any kind, until after the election, when, in all likelihood, at that point in time, the complaint will simply be dismissed.”

If only it were that simple.

As our Scott Powers reports, this is what was found in the investigation:

  • Grayson may have continued to pursue and profit from whistleblower lawsuits against the U.S. government while he was part of the government, which would be a crime;
  • He may have profited from managing hedge funds in his name while in Congress;
  • He may have had a professional service and fiduciary role in those hedge funds while in Congress;
  • Grayson may have failed to report all of his assets in his congressional financial disclosures;
  • He may have had a congressional staffer who also was working for his private companies, and on his campaigns; and
  • He may have improperly used his congressional office for two media interviews last summer when he discussed his U.S. Senate campaign business.

Ideally, Grayson would love his bitter rival for the Senate Democratic nomination, Patrick Murphy, to announce Wednesday that, a la Bernie Sanders, “enough of your damn Cayman hedge funds!”

That ain’t going to happen. The Jupiter Representative is hosting a conference call Wednesday morning, where, well, we’ll wait and see what he has to say. It’s doubtful that he’ll come to the same conclusion as Grayson has.

In other news …

Debbie Wasserman Schultz went on the “Daily Show” with Trevor Noah the other night, where she had to respond to why she was “cockblocking” Bernie Sanders’ quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

• • •

DWS said on a conference call on Tuesday that she believes that the Republican Party wants to stymie “inconvenient” voting groups at the pollsAnd, oh yeah, she also announced yesterday that she raised $614,000 in her first quarter against challenger Tim Canova.

• • •

Planned Parenthood held its big annual fundraiser at the Straz in Tampa Tuesday. By any stretch, it’s been a challenging year for the organization.

• • •

Jeff Brandes, Lori Berman and Ray Rodriguez says they’ll begin campaigning soon for the passage of their solar power constitutional amendment that will be on the August primary ballot.

• • •

And is Jim Norman a shoo-in to represent the Hillsborough County Republican Party this fall in the District 6 County Commission race? Tim Schock stands in his way.

Jim Norman, Tim Schock not fans of Go Hillsborough proposal

There were definite moments of disagreements between Jim Norman and Tim Schock in their candidate forum at a South Tampa eatery on Monday night. On the issue of Go Hillsborough, though, the two Republicans vying to run for the District 6 County Commission seat this November are singing from the same page.

“It’s D.O.A.” Norman said of the possible half-cent transportation tax. The current BOCC will decide this month whether it goes on the November ballot.

“You’re not going to be able to do a Band-Aid, if that is a regional problem, you’ve got to get very serious about it,” Norman said, adding that the issue about transportation in the Tampa Bay area needs a regional-like approach, a la Tampa Bay Water. “You’ve got state roads all thru this community. You’ve got federal roads all thru this county, you’ve got maintenance by Hillsborough County, you’ve got maintenance by the  city of Tampa. You’ve got all of these problems, and everybody is pulling in  a different direction.”

Schock, a South Tampa small businessman who lost to Al Higginbotham in a 2014 run for county commission, charged that the result from the last transportation tax that went before the voters in Hillsborough County in 2010 should still hold true.

“What’s been happening with Go Hillsborough is, give us light rail or we’ll hold up the rest of these projects,” he said, slamming the critique by those in Tampa that the current package doesn’t have enough light rail. “It is quid pro quo. Lots of discussion about whether we should really just have a vote. We had a vote, less than five years ago, we had a vote. We just didn’t like the way it turned out.” And Schock said the current proposal in Go Hillsborough doesn’t meet the needs of those in Valrico, Riverview or Sun City Center.

One of the big unknowns about the 2016 elections in Hillsborough County is if Norman can pull off a major comeback, or be retired for good from serving in the public sector.

He was on the Board of County Commissioners 18 years before moving on to run for the Florida Senate in 2010. During that campaign, a report surfaced that ultimately brought down his career, two years later.

The scandal involved the purchase of a vacation home for his wife that was bankrolled by the late Ralph Hughes, a GOP powerbroker during the years that Norman was on the BOCC. The FBI determined there was no wrongdoing. Norman did admit his guilt in failing to disclose the information about the house with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The forum was held in a very small backroom at Square One Burgers, and was sponsored by the Tampa Republican Women Federated and Tampa Republican Club. The candidates had at times to speak over waitresses who walked in between them calling out, “I have two orders of mushroom egg rolls?”

Normanwas on the BOCC from 1992-2010, and he uses that experience as a badge of honor, citing all types of legislation that he was responsible for passing, though it wasn’t clear that those achievements were impressing his the audience (consisting mostly of older white women).

Both men played to the demographics of their audience. Norman boasted about responsible for ensuring that no one under the age of 55 can live in Sun City Center, while Schock said there’s been too much focus on millennials, and not enough planning for the fact that the county’s population will only be getting older in the coming decades.

“Most of them coming here are retirees, and they’re not going to be living in the urban core,” Schock said. “They’re going to be living in Riverview and Brandon and Sun City Center. How are we planning for that?”

Norman has been talking up a proposal where county governments who have gaming facilities (like the Tampa Hard Rock Cafe) should receive $50 million from the Seminoles if and when they sign a new compact with the state of Florida to put into transportation funding. “They’re a country among themselves,” Norman said of the Seminole Tribe. “They don’t pay towards  our fire, our police, and those sorts of things, all their people use our roads.”

“I’m hearing Tampa Bay Water, I’m hearing gaming compact and that’s typical of lifelong government officials and using analogies other government sources and other government organizations to solve problems,” Schock said, using his outsider status to his advantage. “What I’m going to be doing is bringing in  new solutions,and I’m going to be bringing solutions that I’ve worked really hard on delivering and have delivered in the private sector.” He then went on to extoll the virtues of new transportation technology, such as driverless cars and other advances that can alert pedestrians on their smartphones about oncoming traffic.

That didn’t seem to impress Norman.

“That’s great about an iPhone, but somebody’s going to have to pay the bill,” he said. “The bill’s going to have to be paid by you, if somebody in government doesn’t come up with solutions.”

Both men touched on the controversy between the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission and ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. Schock was more nuanced in talking about a compromise solution, whereas Norman was more succinct.

“Let them operate in Hillsborough County,” he said.

The event was one of just a couple that the two men have engaged in date, but that will surely change in the coming months. The primary election is on Aug. 30, with the winner going on to face one of the four Democrats whose fate will also be decided on that date.

Pat Kemp gets big endorsements in Hillsborough County Commission District 6 race

Three major Tampa Democrats – Betty Castor, Jim Davis and Ed Turanchik – are all endorsing Pat Kemp in the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 contest.

“I see Pat as being cut from the same cloth as strong woman leaders, like Sylvia-Kimbell Rodriguez, Phyllis Busansky, Kathy Castor and Pam Iorio,” Castor said in a statement. She’s the mother of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who Kemp worked for as an aide during Kathy’s time on the county commission a decade ago.

“Pat has the spirit, intellect, experience and integrity we like to see on our county commission,” Davis said. She noted Kemp’s strong run for the board two years ago, when she narrowly lost to Republican Al Higginbotham in the countywide District 7 contest.

“I have no doubt that she will win in 2016,” Turanchik said. “And with her victory, there will be a new day in Tampa Bay.”

Kemp is battling it out in a contested Democratic primary that includes three other Democrats: former County Commissioner Tom Scott, former Plant City Mayor John Dicks, and attorney and transit activist Brian Willis.

The winner on Aug. 30 will take on the Republican opponent for the open seat. Jim Norman and Tim Schock are competing for the GOP nomination.

John Dicks leads all Hillsborough County Commission District 6 candidates in January fundraising

In his first month of fundraising after announcing his candidacy, former Plant City Mayor John Dicks raised $10,882 in January in his bid for the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 race. Nearly half of that total – $5,000 – came from Dicks himself.

Dicks entered the contest on Jan. 18, becoming the fourth Democrat to compete for the open county commission seat that will be vacated later this year by a term-limited Kevin Beckner.

Tampa lawyer Brian Willis raised the second most of any candidate in January with $4,038, and his $71,990 overall total is the most of any Democrat in the race.

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Tom Scott raised $1,900 last month, and has raised $24,366 overall.

Attorney and environmental activist Pat Kemp raised $1,070 in January, and has raised $59,970 overall.

On the GOP side, for the second straight month, Jim Norman didn’t do much at all in terms of fundraising. The former county commissioner and state legislator who is attempting a political comeback brought in $1,750 in January, and has only raised $2,750 over the past two months.

Doing a little better was his Republican counterpart Tim Schock, who took in $2,150 for the second straight month.

However, because of his explosive first month of fundraising, Norman still dominates the field overall, having taken in $110,325 to date. Schock has raised $42,600.

Brian Willis announces raising more than $75,000 for his Hillsborough BOCC District 6 seat

Brian Willis, the Tampa-based attorney running for the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 seat, announced on Monday that his campaign has raised more than $75,000 from over 450 contributions since he started last spring.

“We’ve been spreading our message across the county,” Willis said in a statement. “Everywhere I go, we add new supporters to our team who want to volunteer, donate, and spread the word. It’s clear that voters are ready for new leadership and new ideas to move Hillsborough forward.”

Willis is running in an increasingly crowded Democratic primary, which includes former Plant City Mayor John Dicks, former Tampa City Councilman and Hillsborough County Commissioner Thomas Scott and Pat Kemp, who came extremely close to toppling Al Higginbotham in the countywide District 7 contest in 2014.

“Our supporters are excited,” Willis adds. “They know we need good jobs, that we can raise our families in safer neighborhoods, and that we can make Hillsborough an even better place to live and raise a family. Every one of them is dedicated to helping spread our message and winning this election. I’m truly grateful for their support.”

The Willis campaign says that he is on pace to raise more than Democratic District 6 incumbent Kevin Beckner raised in his first quest for the seat.

Beckner raised $197, 698 in 2008.

The four Democrats are competing against each on August 30. The winner will face the winner of the GOP race between Jim Norman and Tim Schock.