Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

March column: Pam Iorio, who isn't running, clear favorite in Tampa mayor's poll

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Tampa political insiders have been buzzing for a week or so about a robopoll on the 2019 mayor's race.

It included two horse-race questions — "If the election were today, whom would you vote for?" — with two slightly different lists of candidates, and the winner was someone who has insisted she won't be a candidate, former Mayor Pam Iorio.

Iorio got 41 percent in an eight-candidate field including City Council members Yoli Capin, Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, public relations executive Bill Carlson, former police Chief Jane Castor, former state Rep. Ed Narain and developer Ed Turanchik.

"If she gets in, it'll be Pamelot," said political consultant Barry Edwards, who said he commissioned the poll from StPetePolls just for his own knowledge.

With Iorio omitted, Edwards said, no candidate had a substantial lead.

But even more buzz was generated over a question asking whether the respondents would support a change in the city charter to allow Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who faces a term limit, to run for re-election.

Even though 60 percent said the city was headed in the "right direction," the charter change lost 50-42 percent.

"Even though they like Buckhorn, they also like change," said Edwards.

There's been talk about a charter change, some among business-oriented Republicans who consider Buckhorn a friendlier alternative than other Democrats and don't think a Republican can win.

Buckhorn said he's often asked whether he can run again. "I have a job that I love, and if I had the opportunity to run again, I would," is his answer, but he said he knows of no serious attempt to change the charter.

Victor Crist, Sandy Murman file to run

Republican County Commissioners Victor Crist and Sandy Murman, both of whom hold district seats on the board of commissioners, filed Thursday to run in 2018 for separate countywide districts – Crist in District 5 and Murman in District 7.

Crist faces a term limit next year in his current seat representing District 2; Murman faces term limits in her current District 1 seat in 2020.

So far, Crist faces only a comparatively little-known Democrat, Elvis Jamine Piggott, and local tea party leader Tim Curtis as a primary opponent.

A comparatively little known Democrat, Sky U. White, has already filed in the District 5 race Murman is entering.

In an interview, Crist said, "During these challenging times Hillsborough County needs an honest leader with the experience, knowledge and proven track record of getting the job done. … Much has been accomplished since my joining the County Commission in 2010 and I look forward to an opportunity to continue serving the constituents of Hillsborough County."

Murman couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

The moves, both widely expected, mean three incumbent commissioners will be seeking to switch between countywide and district seats in 2018. If they win, each will get an extension in term limits. Under the county charter, switching from a district to countywide seat or vice versa restarts the term limit clock.

Besides Crist and Murman, Commissioner Ken Hagan, who currently holds the District 5 seat and faces a term limit next year, is running for the District 2 seat being vacated by Crist.

Local GOP taps Carson for dinner

HUD Secretary and unsuccessful presidential candidate Ben Carson will be the keynote speaker at the Hillsborough Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner, the party's biggest fundraising event of the year, June 9. Ticket prices are $250 and up.

Budget slams clerk, public defender

The proposed state budget, now awaiting veto or approval from Gov. Rick Scott, has aroused concern for its effects on education, health care and more.

Less noticed are effects on the local clerk of court and public defender's offices.

Clerk of Court Pat Frank will see a budget cut from $56.2 to $55.3 million, and could lose 12 to 33 positions in her 699-employee office, depending on which parts of the budget Scott vetoes or approves, she said.

Frank said she hopes to avoid layoffs, cutting positions through attrition, but that customer service will suffer.

"We have to have clerks in the courtrooms, we have to file the court documents in a timely fashion and we have to collect the fees, fines and costs – all that is laid out in law," she said. "The only place we have flexibility is the number of people in the customer service windows and the opening hours."

Public Defender Julianne Holt faces a different problem: a big additional workload headed her way because of Supreme Court decisions on the death penalty and on trying juveniles as adults.

Hundreds of juvenile cases and several death penalty cases will come back to her office for re-sentencing, and must be reviewed from the ground up to make sure they were handled correctly under the new court decisions, she said.

Holt will lose less than $300,000 out of her $19 million budget, but that kills her plan to hire two or three experienced lawyers for the death penalty cases. She currently has 220 employees including 120 lawyers.

Contact William March at [email protected]

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