Tampa-area ballot recommendations
By Chris Ingram
A little late, but better than never, Irreverent View’s 2012 Primary Ballot recommendations are out. These recommendations cover all Hillsborough and a few Pinellas and Pasco county races that cross county lines, plus U.S. House and Senate races. In most cases recommendations are for Republican Primary races. This is because the Democrats are even worse than the Republicans at recruiting candidates, and there are few contested Democrat races.
For some races, in addition to my recommendations, I have also included who I think will win and why.
Please feel free to share with friends and family, print out and take to the polls, or just delete them and flip a coin. Whatever you do, don’t forget to vote!
The race farthest down the ballot in most counties is the campaign for each county’s Republican State Committeeman. This position is unpaid, and is not a government position – it is a party position. Those elected serve on the state committee of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). Seemingly meaningless, it’s actually an important position in as much as the state committee sets the rules that govern the RPOF. The committee is mostly dominated by the same people year after year. I think it is time for a change so we can truly move beyond the Jim Greer era.
Hillsborough State Committeeman: William “Hoe” Brown is a successful businessman who bridges the normal gap between grassroots activist and country club Republicans. In addition to running a successful business Hoe serves on the Tampa Port Authority and has a good understanding of how politics and government work. He would be a tremendous asset to the state GOP. One of his opponents is the incumbent, A.J. Matthews – a nice guy but who is short on intellect and has a difficult time being taken seriously. Matthews has held the position for 12 years. He’s part of the problem, not part of the solution. Irreverent View strongly recommends Hoe Brown. Brown is the likely winner. (Note to voters: this race may be on the back of your absentee ballot – be sure to look for it).
Pasco State Committeeman: Steve Simon is a former Pasco County Commissioner and former Chairman of the Tampa Regional Planning Council. He is challenging Bill Bunting, who is a screwball and a wing-nuts wing-nut. Bunting is best known for being a loud-mouthed 2nd Amendment activist, yet despite his activism, his opponent was endorsed by the National Rifle Association (I’m sending in my dues check now). Irreverent view strongly recommends Steve Simon for Pasco State Committeeman. Bunting has angered so many people over the years, he ought to lose big, but the “Buntinator’s” ability to mobilize wing-nuts is legendary and he could make this a close race.
United States Senate: Oh, to be Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV – that’s Connie Mack to most people. Mack has been called the Charlie Sheen of Florida politics for his run-ins with the law, general arrogance, and being born to fame, wealth and privilege. Mack is by far the most unaccomplished candidate for the U.S. Senate being taken seriously by Republicans since Christine O’Donnell of Delaware in 2008. If Connie Mack’s last name weren’t “Mack” (McGillicuddy really), he’d be schlepping used cars at one of those “buy here, pay here” lots on the seedy part of town. The only candidate in this race who is accomplished and a credible contender, is former Congressman Dave Weldon. Weldon’s accomplishments outside of politics include being a medical doctor and successful business operator. Weldon is a strong conservative who is more inclined to challenge traditional orthodoxy than Mack (or most members of Congress). He is a long-shot candidate who got in the race far too late. But who knows, maybe voters will wake up and decide we’ve got enough unaccomplished dummies in the U.S. Senate and elect Weldon to challenge Bill Nelson in November. Irreverent View strongly and enthusiastically recommends Dave Weldon for U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, I expect Cornellius’s silver spoon will continue to bring him undeserved fame and decision-making authority he is not fit to hold.
U.S. Congress, District 14: Why anyone would volunteer to go to the slaughter house is anyone’s guess, but two Republicans have offered themselves up to be destroyed by Kathy Castor in November (recall this is the district Mark Sharpe was going to run in until the legislature made the district even more Democrat than it already was). Eddie Adams has run for this so many times we can start calling him perennial loser. Adams is like A.J. Matthews, a nice guy who is far more stubborn than he is smart. His opponent is Evelio “E.J.” Otero. Otero is a career military man who has a grasp for the issues and has worked hard. Irreverent View strongly recommends Evelio “E.J.” Otero for U.S. Congress, District 14 – Otero will beat Adams like a rented mule but ultimately E.J. is going to the slaughter house.
U.S Congress, District 17: Incumbent Congressman Tom Rooney served his old district well. He’s now in a mostly new district following redistricting. Voters would do well to send Rooney back to D.C. to represent them. Irreverent View recommends Tom Rooney. Rooney should win big.
State Senate District 17: In the race to replace the disgraced Jim Norman, Rep. John Legg went district shopping and is running for Norman’s seat. His main opponent, former Rep. Rob Wallace actually lives in, and knows the district. Legg has been anointed by the Tallahassee establishment and is likely to win despite his carpet-bagging issues. For his part, Wallace is very conservative, and can be dogmatic over issues of principle. That doesn’t sit well with legislative leaders who want their boys to do what they’re told. Good enough for me, but if you need another reason to vote for Wallace consider this: he jumped into the race when Norman was still in it and running with support of party leaders. Legg only got in when it was obvious Norman was on his way out and he would get their backing. Irreverent View strongly recommends Rob Wallace for State Senate, District 17. Legg will win because it’s hard to beat all of the Tallahassee money that has been invested in this race.
State Senate District 22: Two sitting members of the Florida House of Representatives are slugging it out for this Senate seat, Jeff Brandes and Jim Frishe. While both would serve as effective legislators, Frishe is the more likeable candidate and hasn’t had the good fortune of being born into wealth. Brandes’ wealth has afforded him the opportunity to dump over a half-million dollars into his own campaign account – to win a job that pays less than forty grand. Of significance to the Tampa-area, is the fact that Frishe has pledged to support Pinellas Sen. Jack Latvalla in his bid for Sen. President. Brandes will be a vote/agent for Tallahassee insiders’ candidate.Irreverent View recommends Jim Frishe for State Senate District 22. Brandes has the money, but Frishe’s support is strong. Expect a Frishe victory, but a close one.
State Senate District 24: Florida House member Rachel Burgin gave up a safe seat to run for Ronda Storms’ seat when Storms smelled a pay raise and decided to run for property appraiser (see below). Shortly thereafter, former Senate President Tom Lee announced he’d seek the seat after being term-limited out of office four years ago.
This has been one of the nastiest primary races Hillsborough County has seen in years. The nastiness has come mostly from Burgin (or the Tallahassee lobbyists who support her because they have a vendetta against Lee).
The short summary on this race is this: While Tom Lee is not perfect, he’s an honorable guy. He served effectively before, and his institutional knowledge would be a benefit to the Tampa Bay area. Rachel Burgin is a nice gal who never should have been “anointed” to her position in the state House in the first place (she was just 25, with no real world experience). Tom Lee knows about family, commerce, paying a mortgage, and running a business. Irreverent View strongly recommends Tom Lee for State Senate District 24. Despite Burgin’s strong grassroots support, when voters get in the voting booth and compare the two, Lee is the only choice to be taken seriously. Lee wins in a close race.
House District 36: Term-limited state Senate member Mike Fasano is looking to stay in Tallahassee as a freshman member of the lower chamber. Fasano hasn’t always been my favorite guy, but he’s proven himself willing to take on the party bosses and the establishment. Some of his “for the little guy” shtick gets old, but even if it isn’t completely authentic, at least someone is looking out for someone other than the special interests. Irreverent view strongly recommends Mike Fasano for State House District 36. Expect a victory.
House District 37: Incumbent Richard Corcoran is the presumptive Florida House Speaker in 2016. He has two unknown primary opponents. Corcoran has done a decent job – if you can be decent being a part of the Tallahassee establishment – and he deserves re-election. Irreverent View recommends Richard Corcoran for State House District 37. Corcoran will win in a blow-out.
House District 57: Two men are vying for this open seat. Jake Rayburn and Brian Hollands. Both are capable and would serve the district well, however their resumes are very distinct. Rayburn is just 27 and is a farmer. Hollands works for HCC, but has also worked in marine biology and real estate. District 57 voters should be happy to have two fine candidates to consider. Irreverent View makes no recommendation for State House District 57. Rayburn’s connection to the agriculture community should help him win in this rural-leaning district.
House District 59: Betty Joe Tompkins is known to be one of the hardest working community activists in Hillbsorough County. She’s smart, conservative, and dedicated to improving our community. Irreverent View strongly recommends Betty Jo Tompkins for State House District 59. This race could be close. Tompkins is well-known and respected, but her fundraising has been lackluster while her opponents (at last report) were raising money at a respectable level, and should make this competitive.
Hillsborough County Property Appraiser: In 1991 former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards ran for governor again despite his problems with the law and ethics. His opponent that year was white-supremacist David Duke. Bumper stickers produced by third-party groups read “Vote for the crook” and “Vote for the Lizard, not the Wizard.” For his part, when Edwards was asked how he would beat Duke, he replied, “Stay alive.” In this race, Ronda Storms need only “stay alive” (and perhaps lock herself in a closet so she doesn’t say anything stupid as she is prone to do) to beat Rob Turner, the county’s incumbent “porn appraiser” –er, uh, property appraiser.
Storms doesn’t know squat about property appraising and it has been suggested she’s running for the huge salary increase this position provides compared to her paltry pay as a state Senator. Storms is also well-known for running her mouth before engaging her brain.
If I were printing bumper stickers for this race they would say, “Don’t vote for the perv, vote for the one who’ll get on your nerve.” Okay, that may be a little long for a bumper sticker, but you get the picture. Irreverent View very unenthusiastically recommends Ronda Storms for Hillsborough County Property Appraiser (and will likely be voting for Democrat Bob Henriquez in November, no matter the outcome) Expect Storms to win the primary.
Board of County Commission District 2: Two years ago I was chiding then State Senator Victor Crist for being the sponsor of the bill that gave us the $48 Taj-Mahal courthouse in Tallahassee. A while later Crist called me to explain his position. While I’m not convinced Crist couldn’t have done a better job handling the Taj-Mahal affair, he was in something of a pinch and his outreach to explain himself was appreciated (and not the norm you get from most pols). Crist has done a decent job as a commissioner, and voters could do a lot worse – and would do a lot worse if they elected his opponent who is a close-minded Tea Party wing-nut. Irreverent View recommends Victor Crist for BOCC District 2. Crist should win, but this one could be close. Not sure if the name “Crist” on a GOP ballot is such a good thing (Victor is not related to Charlie “Chuckles the Clown” Crist, by the way).
Board of County Commission District 6: Children’s advocate Margaret Iuculano faces businessman and former car salesman Don Kruse. Neither one probably have a chance at beating Kevin Beckner in a county-wide race, though Iuculano probably has a slightly better chance than Kruse. Kruse has run three times and lost. Iuculano briefly ran for the commission two years ago but dropped out. She’s campaigned hard and deserves the vote of Republicans. Irreverent View recommends Margaret Iuculano for Hillsborough County Commission District 6. Iuculano should win big.
Democrat Primary for Supervisor of Elections: Craig Latimer is running against former County Commissioner and Tampa City Councilman Tom Scott. Both are decent men. Scott however, is something of a career politician, while Latimer – who spent 35 years in law enforcement – is not. Latimer is the #2 at the Supervisor’s office, and he has done a noble job turning the office around after the Buddy Johnson fiasco. Irreverent View strongly recommends Craig Latimer for Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections. I expect Latimer will win big (and I will be voting for him in November).
Hillsborough County School Board District 1: Eddy Calcines is running against two-term incumbent Susan Valdes. After 8 years on the board, Valdes is part of the problem, not the solution. The board is in need of new voice. Irreverent View recommends Eddy Calcines for School Board District 1. Valdes will more than likely win.
Hillsborough County School Board District 3: Incumbent Jack Lamb has served on the board for three terms (12 years). He is nothing short of a career politician and education bureaucrat. His opponent is Cindy Stewart, a mom, data systems business manager, and PTA President who actually has kids in the public schools. Lamb is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Irreverent View strongly recommends Cindy Stewart for School Board District 3. Lamb has raised twice as much money as Stewart, and he has name ID. That should help carry him to another win. Hopefully Stewart will run again.
Hillsborough County School Board District 5: A few years ago, I heard Dorothea Edgecomb, the incumbent in this race, brag about how the Hillsborough School Board only spends 10 percent of its budget on administration. That sounds great – unless you understand that the budget (at that time) was over $3billion. That means administration of the school system is over $300 million! Edgecomb is another career politician education bureaucrat who cares more about systems and processes than how much kids actually learn. She once said “all teachers are good” and suggested none should be fired for poor performance. Edgecomb is not only part of the problem, she is the problem. Irreverent View recommends Henry Ballard for School Board District 5. Voters are sheep and Edgecomb will win again.
Hillsborough County School Board District 7: Michael Weston is a school teacher with “real world” classroom experience. He is running in a crowded field that includes a 20 year incumbent (can we say career politician, education bureaucrat anyone?), and a misguided community activist. Weston’s recent practical experience in the field would be an asset on the board. Irreverent View strongly recommends Michael Weston for School Board District 7.Too tough to call how this one goes on election night.
County Court Judge Group 3: John Grant is challenging sitting judge Ann Ober. Grant is the brother of Rep. Jamie Grant, and son of former Sen. John Grant. Grant’s past includes more than one DUI, which his opponent has used to attack him as being unfit to serve. Despite those issues, Grant is smart and capable and perhaps his having been on the “other side of the law” will give him a different perspective as a judge. Lawyers I spoke to about Grant say he’s hard-working, and believe he turned over a new leaf following his brushes with the law and drinking. Ober’s claim to fame is being the ex-wife of Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober. On the bench she’s known to be “okay” but not someone who will set the world on fire. She’s also known to be late to her own court appointments, which is disrespectful and annoying to lawyers and their clients. Irreverent View recommends John Grant. Ober will likely win because she’s got good name ID (thanks to her ex-husband); plus, it’s tough to beat an incumbent judge.
County Court Judge Group 4: Frances Maria Perrone is smart, articulate, and known to be principled. She is highly respected in the legal community and a rising star. Irreverent View strongly recommends Frances Maria Perrone for Judge Group 4. I predict Perrone has a big night!
County Court Judge Group 12: Matt Lucas has only been on the bench two years, but he has already earned the respect of Tampa’s legal community. He’s smart and hardworking and deserves re-election. Irreverent View recommends Matt Lucas for Judge Group 12. Lucas should win.
County Court Judge Group 14: Mark Wolfe is the incumbent who has been on the bench since 2000. By most accounts he’s done a good job. His opponent is former House Speaker Johnny Byrd. Byrd was a divisive speaker, known to be heavy-handed. To that point, only inept speakers are not heavy-handed… Byrd has been a practicing attorney for nearly 40 years and would make a fine judge. Unfortunately, he is running against a fine judge. Irreverent View makes no recommendation for Judge Group 14. Unlikely Wolfe gets tossed, despite Byrd’s name ID (which isn’t all good).
Don’t forget to vote!
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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