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Democrat Craig Latimer advances in race to run Hillsborough elections office

Craig Latimer, chief of staff at the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office, advances to the November general election after winning by fewer than 2,400 votes on Tuesday.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Craig Latimer, chief of staff at the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office, advances to the November general election after winning by fewer than 2,400 votes on Tuesday.

TAMPA — Elections administrator Craig Latimer edged out former city and county elected leader Tom Scott to win Tuesday's Democratic primary for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

Latimer, 59, who has been chief of staff at the Supervisor of Elections Office since 2009, won nearly 53 percent of the vote in the countywide race. Fewer than 2,400 votes separated the candidates.

"It was a close race, and I came out on top of it," Latimer said. "I think it reaffirms what we've been telling the voters with action, not just talk. … We're doing what we said we were going to do. We're being transparent and counting all the votes in a timely manner."

Latimer will face Republican Richard Glorioso, a departing state representative from Plant City, in the November general election.

Latimer first joined the elections office with supervisor Phyllis Busansky in 2008 after her election pushed Buddy Johnson out of the office. Latimer drew heavily on his time with Busansky, who died in office, and her successor, current supervisor Earl Lennard.

He built his campaign around "a proven record" of stability, management and integrity.

"We've been working really hard to restore the leadership and accountability to this office, and this just reaffirms it," Latimer said. "We brought the votes in very, very timely and accurately. And that's what we want to do to serve the voters of this county."

The office had all 347 precincts in the county reported by 8:30 p.m. in Tuesday's elections, Latimer said.

Latimer, who is married with one son, brings with him 35 years of experience in law enforcement. He started with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office as a crime scene investigator, working his way up through the ranks before retiring as a major in 2008.

As the position is more managerial than policy oriented, both candidates had similar approaches to the job and their goals for the next four years. Both advocated for ongoing training and aggressive voter outreach.

Scott, 58, the senior pastor at the 34th Street Church of God, previously served four years on the Tampa City Council and 10 years on the Hillsborough County Commission, heading each as chairman for three years. In 2001, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Tampa.

Though he's well-known in Tampa politics, it wasn't enough to carry him through this election.

"It's just one of those things where we worked hard and did our best and came up short," Scott said. "I'm very pleased with my team and those who worked with me and all those who gave a lot of their time and support. I feel good about the race."

Scott said he called Latimer, congratulating him on the win and wishing him the best in the general election.

"I'm looking forward to it," Latimer said. "We've set the standard for the office here. We have plenty of time to talk about the campaign down the road, but right now I want to focus on closing out this election and helping Dr. Lennard. That's what we're all about."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at cjohnston@tampabay.com or 813-225-3111.

Democrat Craig Latimer advances in race to run Hillsborough elections office 08/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:33am]
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