Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Politics

Candidate in non-partisan Tampa council race returns $1,000 GOP donation

A Florida Elections Commission complaint has been filed over a county Republican Party campaign contribution to Tampa City Council candidate Jim Davison.

The complaint was filed by Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chairman Ione Townsend.

But county GOP Chairman Deborah Tamargo said the contribution, which appeared to violate city Charter rules for non-partisan council elections, was "an innocent mistake" and that Davison has already refunded it.

The party gave Davison $1,000 Oct. 12.

The Charter says council candidates can't "campaign as a member of any political party … publicly represent or advertise as a member of any political party… (or) solicit or accept political party funds or endorsements."

"It was an innocent mistake on our part," Tamargo said. "He did not solicit a donation from us. He didn't have any knowledge of it."

She said Davison refunded the money last week, so it should show up on his next campaign finance report.

Davison is the only registered Republican among six candidates in the special election for the City Council District 7 seat being vacated by Lisa Montelione, and has received backing from fellow Republicans.

All seven current council members and Mayor Bob Buckhorn are Democrats.

Ethics complaint against Jones dismissed

The Florida Commission on Ethics has dismissed a complaint against Republican property appraiser candidate Todd Jones over his initially incomplete financial disclosure form.

Local Democratic Party activist Elizabeth Belcher filed a complaint after Jones left blank those sections of the June report describing his assets and business affiliations.

In August, Jones filed an addition listing his assets but still didn't describe his businesses and listed no income from them.

The commission ruled that the complaint was legally insufficient for investigation because Jones filed the amended form before a September deadline and there was no evidence that he had any income from his business as a property appraiser.

Good news and bad news for Montelione

Lisa Montelione, the Democratic Tampa City Council member who is challenging Republican District 63 state House member Shawn Harrison, got some good news and some bad news.

The good news: endorsements by a raft of labor groups.

Last week she announced backing from unions representing firefighters of both Tampa and Hillsborough County, plumbers and pipefitters, engineers, electrical workers, painters, ironworkers, sheet metal workers, laborers and transit workers, plus the Teamsters local union, the Florida AFL-CIO and the Florida Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council.

The bad news: She didn't get endorsed by the Hillsborough County Democratic Party black caucus, which is distributing a slate card with no recommendation in the race.

Caucus chairman Robin Lockett said the decision reflected Montelione's past backing of Republicans — both Attorney General Pam Bondi and former City Council candidate Jackie Toledo, now running for the state House — plus her council stances on a police review board and her failure to back the only black council member, Frank Reddick, for council chairman. Reddick has endorsed Harrison.

"If we go along with everybody that does not speak to our issues, just because they're a Democrat, we might as well not be a caucus," Lockett said.

Some Democrats are grumbling about the caucus's action, noting that one member, local political activist Michelle Patty, is on the payroll of Harrison's political committee. The committee had paid her $3,100 for advertising and $9,000 for consulting as of Nov. 2.

But Lockett said, "Our decision was not dependent on Michelle Patty."

Foreign reporters swarm Hillsborough

Hillsborough County is being seen not just nationwide, but worldwide, as the epicenter of the Clinton-Trump battle.

It didn't even start with the Oct. 25 USA Today front page proclaiming this the "crucial county" in the race, the county "in the heart of the key swing region of the nation's most important swing state" and the one that has picked the winner in 19 of the past 20 presidential elections.

Local Democratic Party Chairwoman Ione Townsend says she's been swarmed for weeks by European, Asian and Latin American news teams looking for local contacts.

Late this week, she said, there were French and Dutch teams in town, with another French team and BBC teams on the way.

"People from all over the world are calling us, wanting to know what our take is, wanting to see canvassing and phone banking in action," Townsend said.

She said the overseas reporters have indicated Trump's international reputation isn't good.

"The Danish team said outright he's viewed as a joke," Townsend said.

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