State Representative Ed Hooper, the popular Clearwater Republican recently re-elected to the Florida House, but term-limited from running again, filed today to challenge Norm Roche, the controversial incumbent on the Pinellas County Commission.
“I believe I would offer the citizens of Pinellas County a good, worthy choice,” said Hooper. “I bring experience working with other agencies and state organizations to help get the county what it deserves.”
Before entering the Legislature, Hooper worked as a Clearwater firefighter for 28 years, retiring as a lieutenant and served on the Clearwater City Commission from 1996 to 2000.
For months, there has been rampant speculation that Roche would face a serious challenge in 2014. Several elected officials in Pinellas have said they had been asked to consider running for the seat, including Hooper and Representative Peter Nehr.
Asked about the prospect of challenging Roche, a fellow Republican (at least in name), Hooper said, “To my knowledge, I am the only candidate who has filed for this seat.” Hooper, however, did mention that the issue of putting fluoride in the public’s drinking water — a policy he says he has long supported, but one Roche has voted against — is one of the reasons why he is running.
Hooper said he does expect other candidates to file for the seat.
One of those possible candidates, according to the Tampa Bay Times‘ Anna Phillips, is Pat Gerard, a 62-year-old Democrat who has been the mayor of Largo since 2006. She was reelected to another four-year term in July when no one signed up to oppose her.
Behind the inquiries and solicitations to run for the seat, Gerard sees a widespread desire — one that crosses party lines — to change the commission’s composition.
The people who have approached her “would like to line people up early just in case they end up in the same place after the election that they are now,” Gerard said.