Candidate recommendations in Hillsborough County

From County Commission to Soil and Water Conservation District — we make recommendations for them all (and yes there is such a thing as Soil and Water Conservation District!)

By Chris Ingram

Like most voters in Florida, Hillsborough County voters (home to Irreverent View) has a number of local Primary elections on the ballot on August 24th.  While Election Day is August 24th, voters can request an absentee ballot and avoid lines and last minute excuses and vote from the comfort of home. Early voting at select polling locations begins August 9th and runs through August 21st.

With ballots already in the mail, it’s time for a quick assessment of the candidates. You can call these recommendations if you will, as “endorsement” seems a bit haughty.

In County Commission District 1, it is no surprise among those who know me that I am supporting Trey Rustmann. Rustmann and I have been friends for some time, and when he decided to run for the seat asked me to help him which I gladly obliged. Now that “full-disclosure” is out of the way, let me tell you why I like Trey. First and foremost, he is a man of intergrity. He’s also intelligent and extremely interested in studying the issues before taking a position. A former Marine Corps officer who served in combat in Iraq and Bosnia, Rustmann has the leadership skills One County Center is severely lacking. Finally, Rustmann is not a career politician looking for his next job on the public’s dime. In short, he’s part of the solution, not part of the problem. Rustmann was recently endorsed by the Tampa Tribune which said, “…[Rustmann] would bring leadership and analytical skills that would benefit the county” and, “Rustmann would bring a much-needed fresh perspective and can-do attitude to the county.” He has also been endorsed by La Gaceta, Tampa’s newspaper of the hispanic community.

In the District 2 race (currently held by Ken Hagan who is not running for reelection, but seeking a countywide seat), I recommend Linda Pearson. Pearson will bring years of business and environmental/land use planning to the board. She also has served on several boards and government commissions and knows how the system works. With Rose Ferlita not seeking reelection, the board could be an “all male” board come January. Pearson’s election would obviously change that. And while one’s gender shouldn’t matter, it does, and the BOCC needs some female influences. Finally, Linda Pearson is not a career politician or government bureaucrat. Her Republican Primary opponent is looking for his next political job because he is term-limited from serving any longer in the legislature. That alone is reason enough to vote for Linda Pearson.

In the District 3 race, disgraced commissioner Kevin White is seeking reelection – apparently not having any shame for his embarrassing antics in office. White faces two other Democrats in the Primary. There are no Republicans running, so the winner of the Democratic Primary will be the next commissioner from District 3. I like newcomer Valerie Goddard. I’ve met her and found her to be competent, concerned, and easy to talk to. Unlike her two opponents, she is not a career politician looking for their next job. District 3 residents would be well-served electing Valerie Goddard to the County Commission.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it should come as no surprise I am supporting Mark Sharpe for reelection to the countywide seat he currently holds. Sharpe is, well, “sharp.” He’s a thinker. He’s got an independent streak – meaning he’s not in anybody’s pocket. And he is a solid conservative with a record of fighting for taxpayers. Sharpe has been criticized for advocating the Hillsborough Transportation Improvement plan because it would be supported by a one cent sales tax. It is ridiculous to vilify a public servant as honorable as Mark Sharpe over disagreement on one issue – which ultimately boils down to giving the citizens the right to decide (the 1 cent tax issue is on November’s ballot as a referendum). For those “one issue” voters, ask yourself this: do you like sitting in traffic around Hillsborough or would you rather have an improved transportation system so you can get home quicker and spend more time with your family? If the latter, you certainly should join me in voting for Mark Sharpe.

In School Board District 2, Candy Olson deserves reelection though some fresh blood certainly is in order next time.

In School Board District 4, I like Kirk E. Faryniasz. Kirk has military and business experience and is a conservative.

And in School Board District 6, Terry Kemple is the only alternative if you, like me, are tired of the antics of the incumbent. Kemple is genuinely interested in improving our schools and will bring a real conservative’s voice to the mostly liberal board.

Note: These School Board races are important for multiple reason. Even if you don’t have kids in school, the board manages a budget of $3.5 Billion dollars – greater than that of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

In State Senate District 12, two very imperfect candidates who are career politicians term limited from seeking reelection to their current offices are running. One is far worse than the other. As such, I recommend Kevin Ambler for State Senate District 12.  (And the G.O.P. needs to start working on a farm team so we don’t end up with career politicians like these two bozos every year).

In the race for State House District 47, I know each of the candidates personally – with the exception of James Grant. That said, at the risk of making some of my friends in this race mad, I recommend James Grant. He is young, smart, has fresh ideas, gets along well with people, and is not a career politician.

In State House District 56 I recommend Rachel Burgin. I didn’t like the way Rachel initially got the job, but I’ve gotten over it, I like her, and I think she’s serving admirably.

In State House District 57, the St. Petersburg Times has called Todd Marks “the most conservative candidate in the race.”  In addition to being conservative, Todd will be an independent voice not beholden to party bosses or special interest money if given the privilege to serve district residents. I strongly support Todd Marks in this race.

In State House District 60, I pinch my nose and recommend Shawn Harrison. His strongest opponent is Trey Stroud, but Stroud just hasn’t made enough noise to show why he should get the job. Harrison (who used to be my neighbor) is a decent guy, is smart, and competent. I only reluctantly support him because I don’t think he really knows what he wants – other than to be elected to something – and I am concerned he will be a pawn of the party establishment when I’d rather him go rattle some cages in Tallahassee.

And finally, in State House District 67, I like Greg Steube out of all the candidates. He’ll serve his district well. However, he needs to serve cautiously and not get too comfy with the party establishment crowd and the Tallahassee lobbyists.

In closing, I recommend my friend Kelso Tanner for what is probably the most useless/meaningless office on the ballot in Hillsborough County: Soil and Water Conservation District. The SWCD sounds important but as far as I can tell its #1 responsibility is judging an elementary school poster contest and letting people know that soil and water is important. Okay. But do we need to ELECT people for this? Seriously folks, I am not making this up. I researched it, and that’s about all it is responsible for. The good news is the elected members don’t get paid. But still, it seems like an unnecessary government board or agency, or whatever it is. So Kelso, if you win, will you please make a motion to dissolve it? Poor guy, he’s going to want to kill me…  And please, if anyone out there can educate me as to why we ought to keep this board, call me.

These recommendations are made independent of any candidate or committee.  The individual’s have not been contacted and these recommendations are without any authorization, financial consideration or consultation with any candidate.

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, and National Review online. He currently serves as the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9 in Florida’s largest media market. E-mail him at:

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22 thoughts on “Candidate recommendations in Hillsborough County”

  1. Chris: So glad you endorsed Terry Kemple. He is a good, conservative, Christian guy who will indeed bring morality and ethics to our school board. April Griffin is a mess and has done zip to improve student achievement or drop-out rates. Kudos on your insight.


  2. I have to echo your support of Kirk Faryniasz and Trey Rustmann. These are two good men who will be great in their positions at the School Board and County Commission, respectively.

    As for Senate 12, they both stink so badly I can’t even hold my nose and vote in this race.


  3. Chris,

    In response to your plea for more information on the S&W Board, enclosed is the “platform” for my candidacy. Appreciate your comments.


    A. J. Brent, Candidate, District 5,

    Soil & Water Conservation Board of Hillsborough County

    As a candidate for the Soil and Water Conservation Board, District 5, my “platform” is a simple one.

    A little history: In 1937, as part of The New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt created Soil & Water Conservation Boards across the country. Roosevelt seemed to believe that if he put enough people to work for the government, the depression would end. Thousands of programs including soil and water districts were created, employing millions of Americans.

    This brings us to the present. What service does the Soil & Water Conservation Board provide? Check their Web site ( You will see they don’t do much of anything. They conduct Land Judging, Environmental Olympics, a Public Speaking Contest, and a Poster Contest for fifth graders. They also provide “free” sprinkler system evaluations. (These aren’t free to you, the taxpayer; the internal cost is between $300 and $500 per evaluation.) This sounds like a valuable service, especially during times of draught and water shortages, however the “evaluation” is exactly that, it does not remedy problem issues.

    On September 10, 2008, the South Florida Water Management District, controlling the entire southern half of the state, ruled unanimously, to eliminate funding for the irrigation evaluations, determining private irrigation contractors offer tune-ups that not only evaluate, but also make adjustments, for less than $100.

    Other organizations already provide redundant services, such as the Hillsborough County Water Resource Services Department ( which also administers a water conservation program and Tampa Bay Water ( which is responsible for environmental protection and providing drinking water for public health and safety. There is also the aforementioned Southwest Florida Water Management District (, which has numerous responsibilities including issues regarding water and related natural resources.

    In light of these facts, my position is that the Board should request that its funding be eliminated.

    The Board cannot be eliminated, except by petition and referendum, according to Section 582.30 (1), F. S. Funding, however, can be eliminated, and several counties have done so, including Pinellas in 1980, and more recently, Duval and Lee. Board members are elected and serve without compensation. They can continue to meet, discuss soil and water issues, and conduct their contests, using private funding, as do the other county boards that have relinquished their funding.

    Soil and water districts across the country are bureaucracies in search of a mission, and until they are eliminated, their funding should be withdrawn and applied to worthwhile programs.

    Remember the words of Milton Friedman, “There is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.”


  4. Chris – Interesting on the Candy Olson endorsement. It doesn’t seem very like you to just leave it like that. Out of full disclosure I help Frank Hernandez’ campaign. I think you should at least meet him or talk to Kelso about him. I think he has a lot of the independent spirit you like in candidates while upholding conservative values.


  5. Chris,

    The remove the career politicians mantra doesn’t apply in the District 2 race. Senator Crist has given tirelessly and selflessly to communities for quite some time. He doesn’t owe favors to people and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind against the establishment. On the surface, it’s easy to say he’s looking for his next office; however, in this case you’re overlooking a man who built a community center with private and public dollars for children in Suit Case City. And don’t forget about 10-20-Life- yes, that’s Victor Crist who spear-headed this legislation – not Charlie Crist. These are just a few examples of the good he has done while in office. Senator Crist isn’t a seat filling yes-man who owes favors across the board. He has always served an active leadership role and should continue to do so. It would be a good idea to stop falling on that pillow needle pointed with that overly-generalized message about removing career politicians. There’s always exceptions and Victor Crist is an exceptional leader who should be elected and serve the District 2 seat.!OpenDocument&Highlight=0,*&Click=


  6. Chris, you got the state house 47 race wrong. Grant has no experience at anything except working in his daddy’s law office. If you do know Irene Guy you know she pulled herself up from a phone operator to the top of Verizon and that she is a woman of integrity. She has been involved in charities and on many boards in our area and has a lot of business experience. She should have been your choice. John Galloway, Tampa


  7. Chris,
    Don’t you believe that Dana Young has pretty much got her race won? Anything the St. Pete Times endorses I will pick the opposite. Nothing against Todd but that paper is just awful. And The Tampa Tribune is not much better.


  8. I wish you would change your mind and endorse Marco Rubio because he is by far the best candidate. We do not need another six years of Crist in DC–he is another Obama in disguise(or maybe not in disguise).


  9. Out of curioisity – why do people dislike “career politicians”? Don’t you go to “career doctors”? When your car breaks down, don’t you take it to a “career mechanic”? If you eat at a fine restaurant, don’t you want the food prepared by a “career chef”?

    Experience in dealing with the egos in Tallahassee makes both Sandy Murman and Victor Crist the best alternatives for the County Commission.


  10. Thanks, Chris for your endorsement/recommenatio). By the way, the school district has an operating budget of “only” $1.3 billion (to serve 190,000 students) and is the county’s largest employer. By contrast, Fairfax Co. Virginia, the nation’s 12th largest district (we’re the 8th) has an operating budget of $2.2 billion.


  11. Endorsing Terry Kemple? Are you serious? Kemple’s causes have always been social ones – anti-abortion, anti-gay and (shudder) creationism. Regarding Florida’s science standards, he said:

    “My objection to their proposal is that, at its core, the suggested science standard relative to evolution is a set of beliefs unproven. They believe that millions of years ago there was nothing and then suddenly there was something. They have no proof. It’s not replicable. It’s clearly a belief,” Kemple said. “You can give it a name and call it evolution, but it is nonetheless a set of beliefs.”

    Kemple noted that a set of beliefs is typically considered a religion or non-religion. A large number of educated people believe evolution is not correct, he noted, and thus, as a set of beliefs, it should not be taught without stating its shortcomings.


    This is a dangerously (and apparently deliberately) uninformed viewpoint for someone who wants a hand in managing a school district as large as Hillsborough County’s, and if he pushes it far enough it’s a guaranteed lawsuit that will cost the school district (and us) $$$. Companies with high-tech well paying jobs won’t move to an area where this nonsense is in evidence.


  12. Dear Mr. Ingram,

    I am writing because I am so surprised by your recommendation for Linda Pearson, simply because she is a woman. When you look at Crist’s background, commitment and progress in the University Area I just don’t see how you cannot stand behind his record!

    If it is more important to you to have a person on the County Commission based on gender, not experience, then I suggest you find another whipping boy!




  13. Reply to Norm:


    You apparently only read what you want to believe. While I did in fact mention Mrs. Pearson being a female is a positive attribute, I also mentioned that she “…will bring years of business and environmental/land use planning to the board. She also has served on several boards and government commissions and knows how the system works.” I also added that Mrs. Pearson “…is not a career politician or government bureaucrat. Her Republican Primary opponent is looking for his next political job because he is term-limited from serving any longer in the legislature. That alone is reason enough to vote for Linda Pearson.”

    I wrote this before it was disclosed that Mr. Crist was largely responsible for the $48 million courthouse boondoggle which media have referred to as a “luxurious Taj-Majal.”

    Mr. Crist is seriously out of touch with reality and is as I have already mentioned just another career politician looking for his next job on the public’s dime.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Chris Ingram


  14. Just a few of the legal experts supporting Jamie Grant……

    Now why would personal injury attorneys be heavy backers of Grant.

    Want to make sure they have a good replacement for Ambler?? Maybe!












    RUE & ZIFFRA, P.A.







  15. Can you show the evidence that makes you believe the votes are honestly counted? This will be the first year in 30+ I won’t vote. It’s a rigged game and I ain’t wasting my time any more. I appreciate what your doing but calling your “representative” and “throwing the bums out” is not working. The only winning move now is do not play.


  16. Your as bad as Sam the Money Man if you think Greg Stube is guy for District 67 Chris! His on the take for the Manatee Politico Mafia & at least Dr. Bob McCann or JJ Guccione aren’t getting all that money from those shameless Tallahassee Lobbyist & Puppet Masters who’s motto is we think people are dumb so we can buy a Rep. & his vote! So shame on you for closing your eyes this one. We need to VOTE & Take out the Trash in Tallahassee! My Choice is Dr. Bob McCann!


  17. You should vote for Linda Pearson, if for no other reason than she is female. Before you accuse me of “reverse” sexism, consider: in my extensive memory, every woman who has served on the Hillsborough County Commission can truthfully say, “I’m not a crook.” But not every man. Also if I recall correctly, the women have not had to deny being in someone’s pocket after campaign contributions were added up and probable favors ferreted out.

    My vote for best commissioner of all time is Jan Platt, who in her day was the only commissioner with an eye on what was good for the county instead of certain elements of the county. She was often on the short end of 6-1 votes. If only there had been three more like her . . . male or female.


  18. I met Trey Rustmann and believe he’s agreat guy and will be a great commissioner. And unlike his opponent he isnt a career politico.


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