William March: GOP clout fuels new talk of expanding Hillsborough commission


After the failure of the idea in 2015, there may be another move to enlarge the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners.

This time, however, there may be motives beyond increasing minority representation: Some Republicans apparently view expansion as a way to delay or prevent Democrats from gaining a board majority.

Two commissioners, Democrat Les Miller and Republican Stacy White, both said last week they’ve heard talk of changing the board, currently made up of three commissioners elected countywide and four elected from within districts.

Miller led a 2015 move to increase the number of district members. He hoped for a nine-member, all-district board. "But I was told that would be dead on arrival," he said.

Instead, he proposed a five-district, two-countywide plan. It was rejected by the county’s Charter Review Board, which makes proposals for county charter changes every five years.

"I’ve heard some rumblings that at least one commissioner wants to bring up a plan" to go on the 2018 ballot, Miller said, and he would favor the idea again.

White said he’s heard of a push "by the typical political players" for a nine-member board.

"I’m going to start doing my homework on it after the holidays in case it comes up," White said.

There’s currently no Hispanic commissioner, and Miller is the only black commissioner. His District 3 has the biggest proportion of black and Hispanic voter shares, at 36 percent each.

Racial minorities usually need about 40 percent of a district for a good chance of electing a candidate, said Democratic political activist Patrick Manteiga, who has advocated for an enlarged board.

Manteiga said that’s not just to elect a Hispanic commissioner, but to "create a greater chance for diversity of all kinds, economic, demographic and otherwise."

Meanwhile, Democrats, hoping for a political surge next year, believe they have a good chance of winning a third seat, "or if we’re lucky and blessed, a 4-3 majority," Miller said.

Miller said the commissioner he has heard might bring up the idea is Republican Sandy Murman, who employs political consultant Anthony Pedicini — also said by insiders to have been discussing the idea. Murman couldn’t be reached for comment; Pedicini wouldn’t comment.

White said he’s not interested in the partisan implications, only whether the proposal improves representation.

Former GOP chairman seeks limit on attack ads

Following negative campaigning in the state House District 58 primary, former county GOP Chairman Art Wood of Plant City is mounting an effort to have the local party adopt a measure combatting attack ads in primaries.

The county party executive board authorized him to form a committee to consider it and possibly propose new party rules, Wood said.

In the primary, Wood backed Yvonne Fry, subject of attack mailers by independent political committees. They operated separately from the campaign of her opponent, winner Lawrence McClure, but had links to his campaign staff.

Wood said he’d like to see action by the state party to apply statewide, not just in Hillsborough County, and would favor new state laws regulating independent committees, which have become a common tool for negative campaigning.

"I know that probably won’t fly, but we’ve got to start somewhere," he said.

Conservative Sam Rashid leans toward Todd Marks

East Hillsborough conservative political activist Sam Rashid, long considered a county political kingmaker, is leaning toward backing Todd Marks in next year’s District 1 county commission race.

Marks hasn’t said he’s running but has held meetings with groups of potential backers, including a one-on-one with Rashid, and said he’s had good reactions.

Rashid said he’s satisfied with Marks’ conservative ideology, but wants to see a campaign plan before he decides.

Republican Aakash Patel, a first-time candidate, has already filed and raised substantial cash.

Term-limited Democratic state Rep. Janet Cruz has also filed, and Democrats consider the race their best shot at gaining a third county board seat.

Colton Curry is Jackie Toledo’s new assistant

Colton Curry, who’s considered running for a couple of East Hillsborough state House seats, is taking a job as Tallahassee legislative assistant for Rep. Jackie Toledo.

That doesn’t mean that Curry, son of veteran conservative political activist Clif Curry, is abandoning his political aspirations. Legislative assistant jobs are a common first step toward a legislative career.

"I wanted to get up there and get some more experience," Curry said.

Contact William March at [email protected]