Saturday, September 22, 2018
Politics

William March: Dems Mariella Smith, Debra Bellanti draw 100-plus at fundraisers

Two local candidates seeking office for the first time, and backed by a wave of political activism among Democratic women, have held impressive campaign kickoffs.

A veteran south Hillsborough community planning and environmental activist, Mariella Smith drew more than 150 people to an Ybor City fundraiser opening her campaign for a countywide commission seat against Republican Commissioner Victor Crist.

Smith faces a primary against three other Democrats but has the backing of party leaders. Among those attending were U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Commissioner Pat Kemp, and power couple Betty Castor and Sam Bell.

Smith bashed Crist as "a career politician who has held office for 26 years" who is running for a new seat to extend his term limits. She said the current board works for "corporate cronies" rather than public good.

"Iíll work for smart growth and against dumb sprawl," she said, acknowledging itís "a David vs. Goliath fight."

Debra Bellanti, a Tampa marketing executive, also faces a tough battle against state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, but drew an enthusiastic crowd of around 100 to a downtown kickoff last week.

Supporters at her event mentioned their opposition to Toledoís sponsorship of legislation to provide state funding to a network of anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers."

Bellanti criticized Republican legislative moves to pre-empt powers of local government and diversion of public money to private schools.

Bellanti told the crowd she was driven to run by a controversial education bill passed last year that requires public schools to share state school construction money with charter schools.

Vern Buchanan challenger David Shapiro raises $250k

David Shapiro, Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, has reported raising $250,128 during the first three months of his campaign, October through December 2017.

He called it "a tremendous outpouring of support" but "just the tip of the iceberg" from voters who want change.

Candidates typically grab their easiest donations for a big fundraising total to start their campaigns, but campaign manager Jason Ascher said Shapiro will continue the pace.

Heíll have to. Buchanan hasnít yet reported his October-December total yet, but started the quarter with more than $2 million in the bank.

Buchananís 16th district includes southern Hillsborough County.

Bob Buckhorn plans visit to sister city in Sicily

Mayor Bob Buckhorn will head a Sister Cities delegation from Tampa in May to the province of Agrigento in Sicily.

Vince Pardo, chairman of the Tampa-Agrigento Sister Cities Committee, said the tripís purpose is mainly cultural rather than economic. Villages in Agrigento were the origin of 90 percent of the Italian immigrant families in Tampa, he said.

About 30 travelers will pay their own way on the trip, and Buckhornís costs will be paid by the travel agency arranging the trip, he said.

The town of Agrigento, capital of the province, is one of nine Tampa sister cities.

Kathy Castor spotlights Puerto Rico aid volunteer

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, will host Puerto Rican hurricane aid volunteer Brenda Irizarry during President Donald Trumpís State of the Union address Tuesday, spotlighting criticism of the Trump administrationís hurricane response.

According to Castor, Irizarry "took immediate action" after Hurricane Maria Sept. 20 to organize relief work, leading an effort that has sent more than 2.5 million pounds of supplies, and founded a nonprofit group to aid relocated families.

Bills to ban Florida fracking stalled in Tallahassee

A bill to ban oil-well fracking in Florida sponsored by two local legislators appears stalled in the Legislature, but sponsor Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, hopes to keep it alive.

Young filed the bill after a 2016 campaign controversy over her stance on fracking.

The bill, filed in October, hasnít received any committee hearings. The House co-sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, has fallen out of favor with House leadership.

Ken Hagan can revise petition to recover fees

The state Ethics Commission will allow Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan to amend a petition seeking attorney fees from a citizen who filed an unsustained ethics complaint against him.

A commission lawyer had drafted a suggested order denying the petition, which seeks repayment of $7,841 the county paid to defend Hagan against the complaint by George Niemann of Dover.

Contact William March at [email protected]

Comments
Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

TAMPA ó During a showdown Friday in Floridaís most hotly contested state Senate race, Democratic challenger Janet Cruz launched fireworks at Dana Young over education funding, the environment and guns.Young, the Republican incumbent in District 18, r...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

TEMPLE TERRACE — After complaints from city residents, the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has notified the City Council that it will not rent space again to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for its annual banquet.The country clubȁ...
Published: 09/20/18
Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, itís in your hands

Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, itís in your hands

Itís not often that we citizens ó busy with work, paying the bills, living our lives ó find ourselves with the power to right a fundamental wrong.But here in Florida, weíre about to get that chance.On the November ballot ó among all those candidates ...
Published: 09/20/18
Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number ...
Published: 09/19/18
Romano: Floridaís dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Romano: Floridaís dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Two things you need to know about Floridaís prison budget:1. It was $2.3 billion this year.2. It was still not enough.Kind of staggering when you think of it that way, huh?We keep spending more and more on housing prisoners, and itís like throwing mo...
Published: 09/18/18
Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

WASHINGTON ó Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday he was willing to speak to a Senate panel to "refute" an allegation he sexually assaulted a woman while in high school, after his accuser said via her attorney that she was ready to testi...
Published: 09/17/18
California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in subu...
Published: 09/16/18
Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. embassy in Havana suspended processing requests from people hoping to leave the island nation as refugees. The reason: Staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew in the wake of mysterious health attacks on em...
Published: 09/17/18
Romano: Rick Scottís do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

Romano: Rick Scottís do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

His time in Tallahassee is coming to an end. Eight years of triumph or shambles, depending on your point of view. And yet, Rick Scottís legacy may not be written until his final minute as governor.For several years, Scott has been plotting a judicial...
Published: 09/15/18
Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattisí Fate in Doubt

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattisí Fate in Doubt

WASHINGTON D.C.? ó Back when their relationship was fresh and new, and President Donald Trump still called his defense secretary "Mad Dog" a nickname Jim Mattis detests ? the wiry retired Marine general often took a dinner break to eat burgers with h...
Published: 09/15/18