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.

John Dicks poised for Hillsborough County Commission District 6 run

John Dicks appears poised to become the fourth Democrat to enter the highly competitive Hillsborough County District 6 countywide race.

The former Plant City Mayor has not officially filed papers with the Supervisor of Elections office, but a website – VoteJohnDicks.com – has been created but still appears in the construction stage.

Though he was not available for comment on Monday, Dicks details his motivation for running and what he could bring to the county if elected on his website.

“As a business man, lawyer, farmer and former Mayor of Plant City, I have a unique skill set to help chart that course for Hillsborough County,” he writes. “That’s why I am running for County Commissioner … To help make those critical decisions that will determine the future of our County. And with your help, we can make Hillsborough County the place where we are proud to call home, where we want to live, work and raise our families.”

Dicks is an attorney, but is best known for his public service as both mayor and city commissioner in Plant City. He served as mayor in 1999-2000, and again 2005-2007.

He last ran for public office in 2008, when he lost in a Democratic primary for Congress in CD 9 seat to Bill Mitchell (Mitchell went on to lose that year to GOP incumbent Gus Bilirakis).

He first ran for office in 1996, losing a state Senate seat to Republican Tom Lee. In between his two stints as mayor, he was elected three times to the Plant City Commission, running unopposed each time.

Dicks is getting a late start in the race; Pat Kemp and Brian Willis entered the Democratic Primary this past spring, and Thomas Scott became an official candidate in June.

On the GOP side, Jim Norman and Tim Schock are the nominees.

Mitch Perry Report for 1.13.16 — The right hates Nikki Haley’s response on the SOTU

The Republican Party tapped South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to give the official response to President Obama‘s final (and very boring) State of the Union address Tuesday night, and if anything, it exposed the fissures that are ongoing with the GOP nationally.

Although the first few minutes of her speech bashed Obama in ways that shouldn’t alienate any conservatives, she then shifted gears, referring to the very obvious fact that she’s “the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country.”

She then pivoted from that to discuss the era we live in now, where there are tremendous concerns about radical terrorism — but was an unmistakable bash at Donald Trump and his harsh and incendiary rhetoric about Muslims and Mexicans.

“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation,” she said. “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

She said that in the age of terrorism, the U.S. shouldn’t allow refugees in “whose intentions cannot be determined.”

Later she said, “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.”

Sensible, no?

No. Not according to critics.

“Trump should deport Nikki Haley,” Ann Coulter tweeted part way through Haley’s speech. She later added: “Nikki Haley says ‘welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of religion.’ Translation: let in all the Muslims.”

“Nikki Haley’s speech would’ve been good except for the GOP self-loathing,” tweeted Amanda Carpenter.

While Laura Ingraham tweeted that she had seen Van Jones praise Haley’s speech. “Enough said,” she wrote.

Haley has been mentioned as a potential VP nominee for the GOP this year.

Not if Donald Trump is the presidential candidate, though.

In other news …

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Florida’s controversial system that allows judges, and not juries, to decide whether or not convicted criminals deserve the death penalty, is unconstitutional.

• • •

On the opening day of the 2016 Legislative Session, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli advocates for ride-sharing legislation. 

• • •

Bernie Sanders is the candidate of choice for the members of MoveOn.org, and it wasn’t a close vote between him and Hillary Clinton.

• • •

Jim Norman still has a financial advantage over the rest of the field in the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 race, but he spent thousands more than he raised last month.

• • •

Meanwhile in the Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts race, Pat Frank had a robust month of fundraising last month.

Jim Norman burn rate rises in December in Hillsborough County Commission race

December was a lackluster month of fundraising for all five of the candidates running in the countywide Hillsborough County Commission district 6 race, with only Republican Tim Schock raising more than $2,000 during the busy holiday season.

Schock is challenging Jim Norman for the GOP nomination next August, and still trails him significantly in overall fundraising. Norman has raised a total of $108,575 in the race, while Schock has taken in $40,450.

Norman raised only $1,000 in December, but spent $5,550 to GPS Partners for campaign work. In November, Norman raised $7,450, and also spent $5,500 to GPS Partners.

Meanwhile, all three of the Democrats in the race also had quiet Decembers in terms of their level of fundraising.

Pat Kemp raised $1,650 last month, and has raised $58,900 overall. Brian Willis raised just $500, but continues to lead all Democrats overall in fundraising in the contest with $67,592. And former County Commissioner Thomas Scott took in $500 last month, and has raised $22,346.

The primary elections for both parties take place on August 30.

Mitch Perry’s Top 10 stories in Hillsborough politics of 2015

As first said by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, in the universe change is the only constant. Nowhere was that more applicable than in Tampa Bay during the past 12 months.

From the much-ballyhooed dismissal of MaryEllen Elia as Hillsborough County School Board District superintendent to redistricting and the rising (and falling) fortunes for hizzoner Bob Buckhorn, many of the leading political issues of the year centered on shaking up the status quo.

With that, here are Hillsborough County’s top ten stories in 2015:

1) MaryEllen Elia canned by Hillsborough County School Board.

For most of her decadelong tenure as Hillsborough County School Board District superintendent, Elia enjoyed a glorious run, beloved by the local media and recognized by her peers across the nation as one of the top public school instructors in the country.

But there are always issues simmering below the surface that actually wasn’t that hidden for those who followed the 2014 Hillsborough County School Board elections, where Elia was referred to critically by many if not most of those running for office.

Elia clashed severely with two school board members for years: April Griffin and Susan Valdes. After last fall’s school board election, which included the stunning upset victory by Sally Harris over establishment favorite Michelle Shimberg, Elia was in more trouble than she could have ever imagined.

In January, the school board on a 4-3 vote shockingly fired Elia.

One of those school board members who opposed her, Cindy Stuart said that some incidents had eroded the board’s trust, including one in which the board did not learn for 10 months about a special education student who had a medical emergency on a school bus and later died.

It all ended up well for Elia. In addition to costing local taxpayers more than $1 million to break her contract, four months later, she was named New York state Education Commissioner.

2) Guido Maniscalco stuns Jackie Toledo, Tampa establishment in runoff City Council race.

In this three-way race to succeed Charlie Miranda in Tampa’s City Council District 6 contest (Tommy Castellano was the third candidate), Republican Jackie Toledo had the financial edge and was embraced by the business elite in Tampa who welcomed a fellow “R” on the otherwise all-Democratic Council.

But as the campaign continued, Toledo suffered serious negative fallout. Some of that had to do with the actions of her campaign manager Anthony Pedicini that Toledo never addressed.

But some of it was on her, such as her weak response when it was learned that her campaign had failed to get permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to shoot video in a restricted construction zone for a television ad.

Nevertheless, Toledo won the plurality of votes on primary Election Day in April, garnering 46 percent of the vote, to Maniscalco’s 29 percent (Castellano received 25 percent).

Saying he was offended by her campaign, Castellano endorsed Maniscalco that evening, and local Democrats worked the streets to ensure that the council remained all Democratic in party registration.

In the runoff, Maniscalco narrowly won, 51-49 percent.

3) Uproar over Citizens Review Board for Police in Tampa.

The Tampa Bay Times report in April that Tampa Police had written more than 2,500 bike tickets over the past three years: more than Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando combined. They also reported that nearly 80 percent of the citations in the city went to blacks.

That report — along with some problematic issues within the department — resulted in community activists calling on the City Council and Mayor Bob Buckhorn to create a Citizens Review Board to monitor police procedures and policies, something that most major cities in the country have, but not Tampa.

The controversy hit “Def Com 5” the day Buckhorn — initially resistant to the idea — announced an executive order creating such an agency, giving himself the power to name all but two members to the nine-member regular board with two alternates.

That led to a prolonged battle with the City Council over who had jurisdiction to name members of such a board. Activists also wanted the board to have subpoena power, something that no council members was even calling for.

4) Redistricting changes everything — David Jolly leaves the 13th Congressional District seat for a U.S. Senate run, Charlie Crist enters the race.

In Tampa Bay, some of the greatest political changes can be summed up in one word:  redistricting. David Jolly had been part of one of the most expensive congressional races in U.S. history in early 2014 when over $12 million was spent altogether for the Pinellas County District left open after the death of longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

A little over a year later, Jolly announced he would leave the seat in 2016.

That’s because, during the summer, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Florida GOP-led Legislature had violated the state’s constitution by gerrymandering eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts in 2012. The result was a newly drawn up CD 13 that, on paper anyway, made it much less possible for Jolly (or any other Republican) to hold on to the seat.

So, exit Jolly from local politics (he’s now running for U.S. Senate), and say hello (once again) to Charlie Crist, whose political career seemed to have ran out of options less than a year earlier after his narrow loss to Rick Scott in the incredibly bitter contest for governor.

Crist is running for the Democratic nomination in CD13 against Eric Lynn, the St. Pete native who began working for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama right before the Illinois lawmaker announced his run for president. Lynn served for six years in the Pentagon, before announcing earlier in 2015 that he would challenge Jolly.

Jolly’s out, but Crist is in, and his overwhelming advantage in name recognition has made him the prohibitive favorite in the race, but Lynn has refused to be cowed by his much more famous challenger.

5) Jim Norman attempts a return for local politics.

The jury is still out on how significant development this actually is, but what is newsworthy is that Jim Norman opted to come out of hibernation and attempt a return to the place he served for 18 years.

The former County Commissioner says he’s been exonerated for the ethical issues involving the vacation home involving one of his benefactors, the late Ralph Hughes. He remains the odds-on favorite to capture the GOP nomination for the District 6 countywide seat next year, but it’s not known if the electorate overall will be that forgiving.

6) Kevin Beckner challenges Pat Frank in Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court race in 2016.

The biggest game of “he said/she said,” in local politics, Kevin Beckner ended up alienating some of the Tampa Democratic establishment by challenging Pat Frank, but it was never intended to be that way.

The two Hillsborough Dems acknowledge they had a conversation, where Beckner talked about his interest in running for the race. They disagreed on what was actually said at that meeting. Beckner said Frank told him she would be stepping down in 2016, suggesting he consider running for the office.

Frank vigorously denied that, saying she told Beckner she hadn’t made up her mind yet.

“I never said I wasn’t going to run,” Frank told this reporter. “I said I hadn’t made up my mind yet. And I never said that I would endorse him or anything of that sort. In fact, he did say to me, ‘If I do run, could you support me?’ And I said, ‘I’ve gotta be honest with you, the person who would stand first in line with me would be Harry Cohen.’”

7) Frank Reddick becomes Tampa City Council Chair/Les Miller ousts Sandy Murman as Hillsborough Board of County Commission Chair.

There was a changing of the guard in local leadership.

In Tampa, Charlie Miranda was expected to be re-elected by his colleagues once again as chair. In fact, Mayor Bob Buckhorn predicted it. But in a rare sign of flexing independent muscles, something they would do again later in the year, a majority of the council opted instead for another choice, Frank Reddick, probably the mayor’s biggest critic on the board.

In November, two Republican Hillsborough County Commissioners (Victor Crist and Ken Hagan) joined Democrats Kevin Beckner and Les Miller to select Miller as Board Chairman, ousting former chair Sandy Murman.

It was a stunning move, which had many people wondering how it had happened.

While there were a few scenarios presented, it seems apparent the vote against Murman had nothing to do with her counter proposal to fund transportation projects in the county.

That offer, using the framework a plan worked on by both Sierra Club and Tea Party members, employs a variety of courses (such as mobility fees and a gas tax), and received poor reviews when Murman announced it, although she still expects it to get a hearing in 2016.

8) Go Hillsborough effort rocked by WTSP Channel 10 story.

Speaking of Go Hillsborough, the fate of that possible county transportation tax remains unresolved as of this posting. Go Hillsborough is the collective work effort of the county initially presented last summer as a plan to go before voters in 2016.

With transportation taxes going down in the Tampa Bay area in 2010 and 2014, the pressure is on Hillsborough to finally break the losing streak and get something — anything — passed. Or, at least, that’s the way it looked like to Tampa residents — a plan tailored for the rest of Hillsborough County (outside of Tampa) and heavy on adding or improving roads, with little devoted to transit.

Then Noah Pransky‘s story on WTSP hit in early September. It sought to enlighten the public on the power public relations consultant Beth Leytham held within the county’s corridors of power but exposing serious questions about how the contractor, Parsons Brinckerhoff was selected to work on the project. Parsons then hired Leytham as a subcontractor.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee has been investigating some of the questions presented by Pransky — his findings have yet to be announced (as of this posting). Some say it doesn’t matter, and the project is now doomed to fail — again. Others say it could be ready to make a comeback.

9) Bob Buckhorn’s bad summer

Bob Buckhorn started off 2015 in grand fashion, seeming to have found his footing at the end of last year. But in late summer, the mayor definitely encountered the most turbulence in his four-year-plus tenure.

It began with winning re-election by the margins usually tin-pot dictators, taking 96 percent of the vote.

That would be the highlight. For a while, anyway.

As noted above, the Tampa Bay Times reported that blacks had been disproportionately cited by the TPD for bike citations. Police Chief Jane Castor and Buckhorn initially pooh-poohed the report, but it opened the floodgates for critics of the police department, who held a host of meetings decrying their treatment by police, along with the seeming lack of concern by the mayor.

Buckhorn and Castor asked for assistance from the U.S. Justice Department, which sent its Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program to investigate the TPD; that report is slated for the end of the year. (Critics say it will be a whitewash, and that the DOJ should have instead sent itsCivil Rights Division to investigate.)

Critics then began demanding the creation of a Citizen’s Police Review Board, something the mayor initially said wasn’t needed. He came around to the idea, but alienated members of the City Council when he signed an executive order allowing him the power to choose nine of the 11 total members. Council members objected, but Buckhorn’s initial stance was that the City Charter allowed him to name all 11 members. He dismissed the critics who attended council meetings who criticized him, saying they were part of “fringe groups.”

Buckhorn also played a supporting role in the WTSP report on Leytham, providing the mayor one of his least flattering on-camera moments ever when he responded to Noah Pransky’s queries.

After fundraising slowed for his political action committee, which was designed as a vehicle for him to travel around the state broadening his profile for a potential 2018 gubernatorial run, questions began percolating that Buckhorn dropped the idea. He hasn’t.

However, Buckhorn acknowledges that it will involve a major undertaking on his part, something he says he’ll definitely decide by the end of 2016, if not earlier.

10) TBX Express is coming to Tampa

For nearly two decades, the Florida Department of Transportation has been invested in what it calls the ultimate downtown interchange: widening both I-275 and I-4.

And what that meant was for years, the FDOT did nothing except buy and move historic structures in Ybor City and Tampa Heights, part of the purchase of rights of way for road widening.

But earlier this year, when the FDOT finally announced plans for the ultimate downtown interchange, many members of the local Seminole Heights/Tampa Heights community were less than impressed.

The plan calls for express toll lanes to run along Interstates 275, 4 and 75, and would cost up to $2 per mile to use. On I-275, TBX would go south from Bearss to the I-4 junction, west to the Westshore area, and over the Howard Frankland bridge to Pinellas County. The price tag would be $3 billion.

Community activists say it could destroy the progress, particularly that made in Seminole Heights, citing what FDOT did to the city when the interstate was constructed in the 1960s.

Supporters of the plan, like Bob Buckhorn, say it’s a new FDOT, which is more sensitive in how they go about construction projects, and it intends to be more cooperative with neighborhoods.