Despite a late start and the fact that she was outspent by approximately $70,000, Pat Kemp nearly defeated Al Higginbotham in the race for the countywide Hillsborough County District 7 seat last November.
That’s why she says she’s definitely running again in 2016, this time for the Democratic nomination for the countywide District 6 seat that will go before the voters in November of 2016.
It’s a race that could be crowded with other Democrats as well, as both DNC Vice Chair Alan Clendenin and Tampa attorney and transit advocate Brian Willis have also been making noises recently about a run at the seat, currently held by Democrat Kevin Beckner.
But unlike Clendenin and Willis, Kemp now has a county run under her belt. Although she did come up short in the end, she garnered more than 175,000 votes, losing by just over half a percentage point in a nonpresidential election year to a county commissioner who had been in office for eight years.
In fact, Kemp didn’t enter the race until last April, filling a void left when two other well known Democrats, April Griffin and Mary Mulhern, departed from the race. She then ousted Mark Nash convincingly last August in the Democratic Primary.
A former chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, Kemp said she’s fully aware of how hard the demographic map is for Democrats in off-year elections, which is why she’s confident about her chances in 2016.
“I got 65 percent of the vote, in basically every single precinct in the Democratic Primary, and I’ll do it again,” she says with enthusiasm. “When you have built up this much name recognition (and) good will. I made a lot of connections, a lot of contacts.” She says that she’s received encouragement from “many, many people” to run again.
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and state Sen. Jim Norman says he’s all but certain to run for the GOP nomination for District 6 next year.
Kemp says, “Of course,” when asked if she looked forward to running against Norman, who left his political career in disgrace in 2012. He now says he’s ready to make a comeback.
She says she’s never been a fan of his work, and actively tried to recruit a Democrat to oppose him back when she was party chair years ago. “I think he has a very bad record in every way,” she surmised. “Ethically and otherwise.”
An attorney, Kemp currently serves as conservation and program chair with the Tampa Bay Sierra Club, and was the recipient of their Black Bear Award in 2014.