Irreverent View dissects the races and makes recommendations in most all of Hillsborough County’s competitive races (and a few that aren’t competitive)
By Chris Ingram
With absentee ballots already in the mail, it’s time for a quick assessment of local candidates. You can review our state, congressional, and ballot initiative recommendations by clicking here.
The options for voters in Hillsborough County for the General Election are weak to say the least. In a year when voters nationwide have rejected incumbent officeholders and career politicians, Hillsborough voters tended to embrace them – at least in the Primary Elections – the result of which gives us our General Election candidates. Perhaps residents of Hillsborough like subpar schools, traffic congestion, an overall lack of planning, and the “good ol’ boy” system that favors special interests over taxpayers. We’ll see come November 2nd, but the options aren’t encouraging.
Irreverent View makes the following recommendations for candidates for State House, State Senate, and local offices in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough County Commission District 1
In the campaign pitting “dumb” against “dumber,” District 1 residents looking for someone who is qualified and competent on the ballot will be extremely disappointed when they see Republican Sandy Murman and Democrat John Dingfelder on the ballot. Unfortunately Mickey Mouse did not qualify as a write-in candidate so he is not an option. Both of these candidates are disingenuous, ladder-climbing political opportunists who don’t belong anywhere near public policy. But this is who voters chose – at least in the case of Murman – having rejected a far more thoughtful and competent candidate in Trey Rustmann, a businessman and Marine Corp officer whose leadership experience Murman had the audacity to question. Dingfelder meanwhile gets the boneheaded candidate of the year award for his failure to properly qualify for a ballot position. Irreverent View makes no recommendation in Hillsborough County Commission District 1.
Hillsborough County Commission District 2
Term-limited Republican State Senator Victor Crist needs a job, so he’s running for County Commission. Republican Primary voters foolishly rejected a better candidate in Linda Pearson in August, so Crist got the party’s nod and will more than likely defeat Steven Morris who is running without party affiliation. Still, voters can send Crist a message by voting against the man who gave us the $48 million “Taj-Mahal” courthouse in Tallahassee – Crist was the bill’s main sponsor. Thanks for all that fiscal conservatism Victor! Irreverent View recommends Steven Morris for Hillsborough County Commission District 2.
Hillsborough County Commission District 5 (County-wide)
Republican Ken Hagan isn’t perfect, but he’s done a decent job and deserves re-election. If re-elected, Hagan will hopefully step up to the plate and show a little more forceful leadership on the commission which so desperately needs it. Linda Saul-Sena is an obnoxious liberal who would be better suited working as a carnival barker at a county fair than on the county commission. Irreverent View strongly recommends Ken Hagan for County Commission District 5.
Hillsborough County Commission District 7 (County-wide)
Mark Sharpe is the most capable and intelligent elected official in Hillsborough County. In fact, Sharpe’s “wonkish” nature is probably his greatest strength as well as his biggest liability. Ninety-five percent of the time, this guy gets it. He’s practical and pragmatic but doesn’t read the polls and just go with what’s popular. He’s got convictions and he deserves more than anyone the opportunity to serve another term. Sharpe faces Neil Cosentino who is running with no party affiliation. Irreverent View strongly recommends Mark Sharpe for Hillsborough County Commission District 7.
Hillsborough County School Board District 4
Stacy White and Richard Bartels came in first and second respectively in the multi-candidate first-round of balloting in August. White is a fifth-generation native of Hillsborough County and a product of its public schools. Professionally, he is a pharmacist. Bartels is a career school administrator and has been endorsed by the #1 problem in our public schools: Teacher Unions. ‘Nuf said. Irreverent View strongly recommends Stacy White for Hillsborough County School Board District 4.
Hillsborough County School Board District 6
Incumbent April Griffin is part of the problem not part of the solution. Her opponent is Sally Harris who promises to be a better listener to parents than the current board has done. Irreverent View recommends Sally Harris for Hillsborough County School Board District 6.
Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation District 1
I don’t know a thing about any of these candidates, though I understand Dennis Carlton who is up for re-election is the incumbent. If you like what the Soil and Water Conservation District has done for you the last four years, send him back. If you think it’s a waste of taxpayer’s dollars, elect one of the other guys and maybe they’ll work to abolish it. Irreverent View makes no recommendation.
Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation District 5
My friend Kelso Tanner is running for this seat. Why, I don’t know, but Kelso is a good guy and he’ll be a great judge of the SWC’s annual coloring book contest. Seriously, this organization is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Kelso believes its structure should be changed so it is an appointed position – not elected. Good idea! Candidate A.J. Brent supports abolishing the commission altogether. Brent should’ve run for U.S. Senate. Irreverent View recommends Kelso Tanner for SWC District 5.
State Senate District 12
Not happy that disgraced soon-to-be ex-commissioner Kevin White was the biggest dirt-bag politician on the B.O.C.C., Jim Norman (and/or his wife) took some coin from a pal and now appears to be headed to the big-house – and we don’t mean the lakefront Arkansas house he’s been accused of buying with the help of that now-deceased pal, and political supporter, Ralph Hughes. Folks, you can’t write fiction as well as the true stuff buffoons like Jim Norman provide when they get elevated to levels of public trust that far exceed their intellectual and ethical capacities. But hey, who is to blame? Voters. That’s right, “we the people.”
Norman’s story is too complicated to explain here, but let’s just say he’s probably heading to a place where you wear an orange jumpsuit and big guys named “Bubba” looking at your rear-end might make a guy like Jim Norman a little queasy. Norman remains on the ballot, though his place is being challenged by Kevin Ambler. Two write-in candidates qualified, but stand no chance. Irreverent View hopes the court does the right thing in the Ambler v. Norman case and that the FBI puts the dirt-bag where he belongs. Irreverent View recommends voters don’t vote in this race.
State Senate District 16
Career politician Jack Latvala (R) faces Pinellas County School Board member Nina Hayden. Hayden who is an attorney and in her first term on the School Board has an uphill battle against Latvala who has raised well-over $400,000 from his lobbyist pals in Tallahassee. Latvala certainly still knows how the game is played, but will he fit in with the new breed of power-brokers in Tallahassee? Latvala is all but a shoe-in to win, but voters can send a message to opportunists like Latvala that they’ve had enough from career politicians by casting a voter for Hayden. She’s competent, and seems fair, and doesn’t appear to be a partisan hack. Irreverent View recommends Nina Hayden for State Senate District 16.
State House District 47
Democrat Michael Steinberg faces Republican James Grant in this Northern Hillsborough District. Grant is running his first race for public office, while Steinberg ran in ’06 for the U.S. House and lost. (Updated 10/13) The youthful Grant would bring a fresh voice to Tallahassee. His biggest challenge will be not getting sucked into the partisan machine politics that swallows up and overwhelms most well-intentioned freshmen. Irreverent View recommends James Grant for State House District 47. Irreverent View recommends Michael Steinberg for State House District 47. Click here to read why.
State House District 57
In the battle to replace term-limited Faye Culp, Republican Dana Young faces Democrat Stacy Frank. Young ran a nasty Primary in which groups supporting her unfairly labeled one of her opponents, Todd Marks, as a liberal. Young stood by and did nothing about it and cruised to victory. Frank who had no Primary opponent is the daughter of Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts Pat Frank. Frank is well-connected politically but her advocacy on behalf of clients to put cell phone towers on public school property has hurt her with neighborhood groups in South Tampa. This race boils down to ideological preference. Young is not a conservative, but will embrace more free-market conservative values than the liberal Frank. As such, Irreverent View pinches its nose and reluctantly recommends Dana Young in the race for House District 57.
State House District 60
Democrat Russ Patterson is about as genuine of a true citizen legislator as you’re going to find. His opponent is attorney Shawn Harrison. Harrison lost his reelection for Tampa City Council a few years ago because he got lazy on the campaign trail. Now he’s just another politico looking for his next best opportunity. While Patterson’s aw-shucks demeanor and naiveté are refreshing, his campaign website makes him look like another partisan hack. He blames everything from the gulf oil spill to the direction water spins down the drain on Republicans. While the GOP certainly deserves a lot of blame for the state of affairs in our state, so too do the Democrats which Patterson overlooks while proposing not a single solution to a problem. Cute TV ads are one thing Russ, but if you’re going to criticize, you better have some ideas. Shawn Harrison is a conservative who will help trim the size of government. Hopefully his years in the arena will help guide him away from the Tallahassee insiders and Harrison will be his own man, not just another career politician. Irreverent View recommends Shawn Harrison for State House District 60.
State House District 61
Democrat Elena McCullough doesn’t have a chance in hell of defeating Republican Will Weatherford, who if reelected is poised to be Florida’s next House Speaker. But McCullough who is a Coast Guard Veteran and local community activist is a rising star who Florida Democrats should cultivate. Weatherford represents everything that is wrong with Tallahassee: sense of entitlement, lack of transparency, out-of-touch with reality, too cozy with lobbyists and special interests. Voters looking to send a message to Tallahassee that they have had enough should reject Will Weatherford. Irreverent View recommends Elena McCullough for State House District 61.
State House District 67
Republican Greg Stuebe is smart, attractive, and capable. If he wins, he’ll be in the fast-track to leadership. Stuebe’s biggest challenge will be keeping his ego in check and listening to voters as opposed to party bosses. His opponent is Democrat Z.J. Hafeez, who on paper is the better candidate. Hafeez has tons of community involvement and his website is full of reasonable policy statements as opposed to the politically safe platitudes Stuebe promotes. Unfortunately for Hafeez, his funny name will be a deterrent to many simple-minded voters. Irreverent View recommends Z.J. Hafeez for State House District 67.
Justices of the Supreme Court/District Court of Appeals
Irreverent View recommends a “no” on the retention question for all judges. While some (if not most) of these judges probably deserve being retained, the system of electing/retaining judges stinks. If enough judges get the boot perhaps the legislature will work to change how these judges are selected/retained. While they’re at it, they should change the very restrictive nature of all judicial elections which are governed by legal cannons and state election laws which deprive voters the ability to really know who they are voting for and what that person stands for.
Hillsborough County Transportation Tax
No doubt about it, traffic and transportation options in Hillsborough County are pathetic. Lack of leadership at the local and state level for the last twenty-plus years have led us to the mess were in. The transportation sales tax referendum seeks to solve this problem, but it is extremely flawed. Among those flaws: where the improvements will go have yet to be answered, relies to heavily on federal spending (which is in effect more deficits and debt for our children), tax never expires, lots of big-shots will make bazillions. What do you expect from the same bunch of clowns who gave us the Tampa Trolley boondoggle? In short, something must be done to address the area’s traffic problems, but this isn’t it, and with so many unanswered questions, the government can’t be trusted to do this thing right. What needs to be removed from the argument is “the train won’t come near my neighborhood/I want use it, so I won’t vote for it.” Get a grip people. We’re all in this mess together, let’s work together to solve the problem. Irreverent View strongly urges a “No” vote on the One Percent Sales Tax. Who would’ve thought I agree with Sam Rashid?
To Eliminate the County Mayor’s Veto Power
We don’t have a County Mayor, so yes, let’s eliminate the non-existent position’s authority. If we don’t, Jim Norman might find a way to exercise it and blame his wife… Irreverent View recommends a “yes” vote on Veto Powers of an Elected County Mayor.
Economic Development Property Tax Exemptions
Instead of special exemptions to “spur” economic development, how about if county government spent less and taxed everyone less? Period. Irreverent View recommends a “no” vote on the question of Economic Development Property Tax Exemptions.
Proposal to Amend Reapportionment Provision to Require and Additional Meeting
Require an additional meeting to which no one will show up at? No thanks. Irreverent View recommends a “no” vote on the Proposal to Amend Reapportionment Provision to Require and Additional Meeting.
Proposal to Amend the County Charter Pertaining to the Internal Performance Auditor
This proposal makes changes to the auditor’s duties and qualifications, and sets up an audit committee. Irreverent View recommends a “yes” vote on the Proposal to Amend the County Charter Pertaining to the Internal Performance Auditor.
It’s time for a drink.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. 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 is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
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