Mark Sharpe is a Reagan Republican

Leadership is about providing what we need, not just what we want

By Chris Ingram

On Friday of last week, Josh Burgin qualified to run against Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe for the at-large seat Sharpe has held for the last six years.

Burgin, who is a nice guy whom I consider a friendly acquaintance made a calculated move based on the assumption that Sharpe is vulnerable for two reasons: 1) because Sharpe has been a strong advocate for the local option transportation improvement penny sales tax; and, 2) because Sharpe is an incumbent in a year when voters appear to be very anti-incumbent.

So now this nice fella’ Josh wants to represent us on the commission. Great! We need more young people with fresh ideas. But Burgin, who is 34 years old, isn’t ready for primetime. His life experiences include all of being the Executive Director of the local G.O.P., and an aide to former commissioner Brian Blair.  To my knowledge he has never run a business, or served in the military, and he never finished college (strangely enough, his wife answered a call to his campaign phone and she didn’t know if he ever attended college, or if he had gone to college, where). Not that all of these things are a necessary requirement, but when you start adding up Josh’s accomplishments, the resume screams “untested.”

So what makes Josh run? For that, you have to understand the “I’ll get you” mentality of the man who got him to run. The same man who recruited Burgin, two years ago told me “I know Buddy Johnson is a moron but he’s our moron, so we need to support him,” in a discussion we were having about the now disgraced former county Elections Supervisor. Fortunately the voters got smart and sent Johnson packing, and the little guy from Brandon walked away with his tail between his legs. The point is, Burgin is supported by the same bunch of backroom, poker playing, kingmakers who gave us Buddy Johnson.

As for his platform, Burgin’s is thinner than a strand of angel hair pasta. It basically boils down to one issue: he’s opposed to the transportation infrastructure improvement plan Sharpe supports.  And while he’d like to fancy himself as the ultra-conservative “Minnie-Me” to Brian Blair, he lacks the main thing Blair has going for him – namely, name I.D. and a spandex Bumble Bee suit.

If Burgin and his cronies had their way, we’d all just look the other way the next twenty years as our roads continue to clog – kind of the way our local “leaders” have acted for the last twenty years. If you want more of the same (lack of proper planning, traffic gridlock, and the mess that is County Center), Josh is your guy.

But if you’re someone who frequently rides the roads of Hillsborough County and has to sit in gridlock every day, and you’re tired of it; or if you think the Pat Bean/Renee Lee fiasco at County Center should have been solved months ago, look to Mark Sharpe.

We could sit around and talk about who is to blame for the “Hillsborough havoc” until we’re blue in the face. People like County Commissioner Jim Norman come to mind. Norman has been in office for an eternity, and now, facing term limits seeks a seat in the State Senate. He’ll fit right in, as that body is full of double-talking do-nothings with questionable motives and sub-par ethics. The fact that the aggregate I.Q. of the entire body is less than the combined scoring of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season bodes well for Norman – he’ll be the brightest bulb in a chamber full of night lights. And while his move to the legislature will be a bad thing for the state of Florida, his absence on the Hillsborough County Commission will be a welcome change, so “so long Norman!”

While the lack of leadership demonstrated by Norman and others can be ignored — since pointing fingers won’t fix the gridlock — the problem itself cannot. And while the transportation improvement plan may not be perfect, it is a start. Being stuck in traffic costs us all money not to mention a lower standard of living and a decreased quality of life. Personally, I’d pay a two-penny tax to not be stuck in traffic most afternoons if I knew it would get me home quicker so I could spend more time with my family.

I’m not convinced the tax will do this, so I will continue to do research on the issue before I decide to support it or not. But one thing is clear: Mark Sharpe is trying, and he’s shown leadership on this issue. Norman, Burgin, and the kingmaking poker player who supports them are good at criticizing Sharpe’s efforts — but don’t look to them for any solutions. They don’t have a plan. Planning means you’ve got to make tough decisions – and that is a lot harder than throwing stones at someone else’s ideas.

Sharpe’s efforts on the transportation infrastructure improvement matter boil down to this: he has led the fight to give the voters the opportunity to decide if they want it or not. The measure will appear on the November ballot as a referendum for Hillsborough voters. This is Democracy at its most true form. We the people actually get a say. How can anyone be opposed to that? And why would you penalize someone for giving you the opportunity to have your voice heard — directly — at the ballot box?

As a reformed Republican in the G.O.P. 12-step program, I have come to realize we as a party cannot merely be against everything that is tax related and expect the problems facing our county, state, or nation to just go away. That’s George W. Bush economics and it doesn’t work. Simply put, the problems we are facing have to be addressed, and the debt will have to be repaid. And there is only one way to pay back all the borrowed money we’ve used for so long – taxes. Sharpe’s plan is a “pay as you go” plan, so future generations aren’t saddled with paying the bills.

Instead of digging in and claiming who waves the flag of fiscal conservatism the highest, we must start to recognize that the failed leadership of the past cannot be ignored, and in order to improve the future opportunities of our children and grandchildren, we all have to make sacrifices. This may include supporting tax increases – particularly when they involve things like infrastructure improvements, reforming our schools, maintaining our nation’s military superiority, and paying off all the money we owe that previous politicians spent to get reelected.

Of course as part of any tax increases, we must send a message to our Democrat friends that social spending must be cut. We as a country simply cannot afford to provide unfunded handouts to every well-intentioned left-leaning constituency if we want to remain the greatest military and economic power on earth. You may think  universal healthcare, free college education, no cost prescription drugs, and a chicken in every pot are great ideas, but who is going to pay for it?

In short, we must all make sacrifices. Our country cannot afford not to. But it’s not just about Washington. This is about a change of mindset in state capitols and local government centers across the country.

As for the traffic mess we’re facing in Tampa, Mark Sharpe has worked diligently to fix a problem that we have long since known needs fixing – and he has a plan to do it. This isn’t any different than how many politicians operate save for one important detail. That is, Sharpe has advocated a way to fix the problem and pay for it as we go. If more elected officials followed this model, our country wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in right now.

Paying for all the largess we want from government is the little point most politicians ignore. They find a way to fix problems, but they pass the buck  avoiding the pain right now – usually in the form of deficit spending. But that debt ultimately must be repaid – usually by generations far down the road. You know, your kids – whom the politicians of today won’t care much about when they’re living in some retirement village, playing shuffleboard, and not buying any green bananas.

To Mark Sharpe, I say “thank you.” Thank you for your leadership and for taking a stand on a necessary, albeit unpopular measure. Making tough decisions is what leadership is all about. Mark Sharpe is not only a real leader, he is a solid conservative. While I don’t agree with him on everything (this shows signs of functioning grey matter between the ears which many in the Republican Party apparently lack), he is a man of honor, integrity, intelligence, and convictions to do the right thing. 
For those who want to vilify Sharpe as someone who is a traitor to our conservative principles let me remind you of something Ronald Reagan once said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.” 
I’m as mad as most about the direction our country is headed. From G.W. Bush and Barack Obama, to Charlie Crist and Alex Sink, to Jim Norman and Kevin White, our country is being led by people have no vision, have questionable ethics, and who will tell you what you want to hear but never tell you what you need to hear.

Mark Sharpe is the exception and he is one of the few incumbents on the ballot this year who will get my vote.

Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, Front Page Florida, and National Review online. E-mail him at:

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18 thoughts on “Mark Sharpe is a Reagan Republican”

  1. So Chris, I liked your article and I have to assume the unnamed “kingmaker” is none other than Samad Rashid. Yes?


  2. Marke Sharpe is a Reagan Republican
    And I’m the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    I know Mark and like him personally. I appreciate his integrity. But he has “grown in office,” a prominent symptom of this being his support for the “transportation tax.”
    There’s such a thing as being too earnest. Mark studies things to death. He gets so tangled in the details of questions such as how to get people around Hillsborough County that he loses sight of the big picture. The biggest crisis facing Americans today is government metastasizing at all levels and threatening to destroy what has made America America.
    It’s more true today than when Reagan last said it: “Government isn’t the solution; government is the problem.” Mark no longer gets this. It’s time to turn to people who do.


  3. Find it most shocking that there is someone who wants to oust Mark Sharpe. He is one of a few, if not the only one, who has shown true grit this past year or so.
    It is amazing that some decide to challenge one who is acting on behalf of the people of Hillsborough County, challenge one with whom they might disagree on an issue or two, and one who wants to jump on the “oust the Incumbent mentality.”
    But mentality is what it is all about…Mark avails himself of information and facts before stating his position.
    Many know that at one time I wholeheartedly did NOT support Mark , have watched from afar (Citrus County) and see him as a continuous bright spot for Hillsborough County
    VOTE MARK SHARPE, you will not be disappointed


  4. Find it overwhelmingly shocking that one would attempt to oust Mark Sharpe. He is one, if not the only one, who in recent months has shown true grit in decision making for Hillsborough County.
    Shocked that one would attempt this type action. Wonder the reason. At times, we may disagree with another on an issue or two; but to oust Mark would be one of catastrophic proportion for Hillsborough County.
    One has to wonder if :
    the HCREC is endorsing/supporting his opponent, who was once
    their ED
    if Mark’s opponent is “jumping on the bandwagon” of oust the
    the community of Hillsborough can benefit without Mark in the
    role of County Commissioner
    …time will tell…the voters will speak
    at one time, my support was NOT with Mark,but have watched him from afar and have been most impressed and happily surprised. Will now be one of his biggest and ardent supporters


  5. Mark Sharpe is a good man and dedicated commissioner, though misguided and short-sighted at times. He’s definitely not perfect. Josh Burgin was the hired lackey of HCRP during the 2008 election and then went on to become the E.D. He didn’t know anything about managing HCRP efforts let alone being a county commissioner. Money placed him there and he’s being positioned in this race because of money. Can we all take a moment and remember how his sister Rachel got where she is? Something is rotten in the county of Hillsborough.


  6. Digressing from Sharpe himself, I wish I had your confidence in what will be done with the revenue raised from the penny sales tax increase. The voters were certainly conned with the CIT so I’m have no confidence in giving the county commission additional revenue.


  7. As a certified professional planner & Hillsborough County resident with significant vested interest, I have watched as well as presented cases to the County Commission over the last twenty years & believe that Hillsborough County is very fortunate to have the leadership & energy of Mark Sharpe. It would be a very sad day for this county for him not to be in this seat, especially at this time with the other leadership leaving office (e.g., Rose Ferlita). Regarding the transportation sales tax amendment, I also know that if we don’t approve it now, Hillsborough County will be left so far behind in the big picture that we may lose our last opportunity to ever get ahead. We’ve delayed this concept longer than every other progressive area of the country & economic development will not follow an area without transportation capability to match. As unfortunate as it is, government spending will never be perfect but we will inevitably see even less money in our pocketbooks if we don’t approve the extra penny tax because there will ultimately be even fewer jobs than there are now without implementing improvement to the mass transit plan.


  8. Not the only example, Chris… it’s not even a short list of examples. There are lots of EGOs working against getting solid candidates elected. Look at Eddie Adams Jr. He’s done the hard work, knocking on ALL the voters doors, literally daily / weekly doing out to meet real voters in all settings, attending/converting real community members to his “camp”…. AND finding time to show up at all the -R- club events for 6 years too. He has a plan to beat Kathy Castor. The big-boy “experts” wouldn’t lift a finger, but he did the work anyway, without “paid consultant help” and NO money$. They said “No -R- can win in a gerrymandered distict like this one”….. Now that the polls show he CAN win, it’s interesting that those same “experts” want to help ANY candidate in the race [and they have called him again too.] …. but only if they get paid.

    The voters need to elect principaled people, FIRST. Eddie has a comment he uses… If you don’t have a “backbone” when you go to DC [or Tallahassee or downtown], chances are you won’t find one to borrow, when you get there. Maybe that’s why he’s not getting any “help”.


  9. The Republicans like to eat their own. In this case they are promoting this guy Bergin because some people think they own what it means to be a Republican. I’m for Mark Sharpe and appreiciate what he has done for the county.

    Go Mark!


  10. Not to besmirch Commissioner Sharpe motive, but when he advocates for the sales tax increase he only talks benefits at a grandiose level. I would expect a non-lobbyist public servant would equally tell with the same convictions what is wrong with the plan and how things may not work out as planned. Now if Sharpe is saying the plan is near perfect, which after attending several of his talks on the subject seems to be the case, Commissioner give us your 10 top reasons why we shouldn’t have rail and just how bad it can be, without being snarky. If you can’t, then I do wonder of your motives.


  11. No question about it….Throw out the incumbents ! but, my guy. Not my guy. My guy is experienced lawmaker. The other guy is a bum ling fool just like my guy was when he first ran.
    You do the same ole thing…..Ya get same ole result…over paid servants who tax and spend, spend your money and create the mess we all have to pay to fix. Problem is Government has never fixed anything.
    It’s your money, Mark will spend as much of it as Josh will ’cause you will vote the tax for jobs, government jobs and the economy, government benefits and perks.
    You have got to be insane!


  12. Cato institute- 2010-NO light rail system in the country comes close to covering
    it’s operating costs much less it’s total cost. We were just told Sunrail has cost overruns and
    tri-raill already having cost overruns. Since 1982, our federal gas taxes have
    been cannabilized by transit, rail, earmarks and now diverted to the General fund.
    Under Obama in 2009- only 20% of all federal gas taxes and user fees were for highways; prior to
    1882 those funds went 100% to roads. The remaining 80% in 2009 under
    Obama went to transit, rail and earmarks. on top of those already paid taxes
    going to rail, taxpayers must subsidize rail with more taxes becsuse
    user fees only cover 20-30% of operating costs. Reason why all the
    cities Mark Sharpe touts have rail overpromised and underdelivered
    what they sold voters on. A Federal Reserve report said you can buy fuel
    efficient cars for every transit user much cheaper than rail. This initiative
    simply redistributes wealth from the County to the downtown realtors, developers,
    lawyers and banks. There is NO scientific evidence of economic gains as rail simply
    redistributes losses in 1 area to areas within 1/4 mile of a station in an
    urban area with ZERO net economic gain. Mark does NOT show
    leadership on this issue but Econmic and Financial Incompetence.
    But wait- Chuck Sykes did state in recent Tribune Op-Ed, “there were
    some smart people for it and we need a psychogical boost”. What
    a reason to send billions of dollars we cannot afford down the toilet.


  13. Can anyone tell me what program breaks even that helps a lot of indigent people? Or a PUBLIC transportation system designed to meet the needs of a relatively small number of commuters and businesses? Let’s get real. We need the system because it provides a few jobs and reduces our earth-gobbling footprint. So what if it costs a gazillion dollars. Just print more money. We need it and we need it now!


  14. What business has Sharpe run? He was a Navy officer (thank you) and a teacher (at a private school).

    Perhaps I agree with 80% of what Sharpe promotes, but when the 20% is so large, so foul, so rife with propagandized marketing, with no real penalties paid by anyone other than taxpayers if all the gradiose promises are not met or exceeded, then I must do my part to cut off the head of the snake.

    Sharpe was a strong promoter of McCain during the last failed presedential campaign. Perhaps some of McCain’s maverickiness has rubbed off on Sharpe, and Sharpe now likes to “walk across the aisle” to compromise with tax-and-spend liberals.

    Sharpe has lost touch of basic economic fundamentals – live within your means – that have us in this predicament. As for the other cities, I do not need to keep up with the Jonses. After all, California is the largest and most progressive state in the country, but do I really want to follow their lead?

    I want Sharpe re-elected no more than conservative Republicans want Schwarzenegger to spread his brand of Republicanism elsewhere.



    This footnoted article addresses the typical talking points promoting light rail, which is Sharpe’s mantra, rebutted with the realities of results. Politicians, of which Sharpe is one, talk about the future but hold no risk in the game. Taxpayers do. Don’t be fooled.

    Either way, taxing all to benefit a few is a classic form of redistribution of wealth. It is repugnant whether Democrats do it or Republicans. It used to be un-Republican, but then the “big tent” Republicans took over and increased the spending.

    Question Sharpe’s motives to promote what so clearly is documented with facts is an abyssmal failure everywhere in the USA.


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