Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

March column: New map unlikely to threaten incumbents

The congressional district map approved this week by the Florida Supreme Court may flip Pinellas County's District 13 seat from Republican to Democratic, but changes elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area aren't likely to threaten other incumbents, said Tallahassee-based mapping and districting consultant Matt Isbell.

Republican Rep. David Jolly of St. Petersburg is leaving the now-Democratic-leaning District 13 seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

Elsewhere, Rep. Kathy Castor's heavily Democratic, Tampa-based District 14 no longer goes across the bay to take in black voters in St. Petersburg. Instead, it pushes north and east into Westchase, New Tampa and Carrollwood.

That will make it less Democratic but probably not enough to inspire a serious Republican challenge.

Castor's old district went for President Barack Obama in 2012 by 65 percent. By Isbell's calculation, Obama won the new district with 57.5 percent.

The old district also went 60 percent for Democrat Charlie Crist for governor in 2014, while the new one went for Crist by only 53 percent -- but with only 41 percent for Gov. Rick Scott.

Since she took office in 2006, the closest any Republican has come to Castor was in 2010, when Mike Prendergast, now head of the state Department of Veterans' Affairs, lost by 60-40 percent.

Prendergast has said he would consider running again if the district changed enough to make it feasible. He couldn't be reached for comment, but the change seems unlikely to offer him much encouragement.

Other changes:

• Republican Rep. Dennis Ross loses part of his Lakeland base and gains more of eastern Hillsborough County, while the district remains heavily Republican. If Ross left the seat, a Hillsborough candidate might have the edge to replace him, but meanwhile, the change isn't likely enough to inspire a primary challenge to an incumbent, Isbell said.

• Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan loses the southern half of his Sarasota County home base, gaining most of southern Hillsborough instead – but again, the change probably won't make him vulnerable to a primary challenge.

• Rep. Gus Bilirakis sees the least change, losing some Hillsborough voters and gaining some Pinellas ones, but Pasco remains the district's dominant county.

Retiring Tampa officer interested in council seat

Add one more name to the list of those interested in running to replace Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione, who says she'll resign to run for the state House: Orlando Gudes, a Tampa Police Department master patrol officer who's planning to retire early next year.

Former state Rep. Mark Danish, La Gaceta managing editor Gene Siudut and Tampa lawyer Luis E. Viera have all expressed interest.

Gudes, a 25-year police veteran who's been active in youth football and lives in Copeland Park, said he's had calls about the race, and will put together a steering committee to help decide.

As a former cop and the only black candidate on local radar so far, Gudes is likely to be asked about the controversy over a police review board. "I don't have an issue with it," he said.

No one yet knows for sure when the election to replace Montelione will be.

Montelione: I didn't back Bondi

Now that Montelione plans to leave her non-partisan council seat to enter a partisan race, some opponents are questioning her loyalty as a Democrat.

Last spring, Montelione backed Republican Jackie Toledo for the City Council against Democrat Guido Maniscalco. a race that became a major cause for the local Democratic Party even though it's non-partisan. Some Democrats are saying Montelione was also involved in a 2013 fundraiser for Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, for which Mayor Bob Buckhorn was also on the host list. Bondi has angered Democrats with her legal opposition to same-sex marriage in Florida. Mike Reedy, Montelione's opponent in the state House primary, has been involved in the gay rights movement.

Montelione acknowledges she went to the fundraiser because she was invited by a friend, tax collector Doug Belden, but said she didn't contribute to or endorse Bondi. Campaign finance records don't show any contribution.

A different take on Giving Tuesday

Todd Jones, Republican candidate for Hillsborough County property appraiser, used a different approach to this week's Giving Tuesday charity drive – he urged people on Facebook to give to his campaign.

Giving Tuesday seeks to use social media to inspire a day of charitable contributions nationwide, intended as a counterpoint to holiday commercialism.

Jones posted an item on his Facebook page saying people should "give to the organizations that give the MOST back to you," hinting that if he was appraiser, people would pay lower property taxes, and asking for campaign contributions.

Asked what sort of response he got, Jones said he wasn't sure because a campaign staffer is handling it.

Jones has started off his campaign with $100,000 of his own money, and said he's just beginning to seek contributions.

When he announced three weeks ago, he said he was hiring local political consultant Matt Blair to run his campaign, but said Thursday Blair instead referred him to Tallahassee GOP consultant Eric Criss.

Contact William March at [email protected]

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