Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ex-commissioner grapples with image, record in state House race

TAMPA — He's a former professional wrestler with a Bumble Bee alter ego. After losing re-election to the Hillsborough County Commission, he unsuccessfully sued his opponent for libel. And after a predawn altercation with his son, he was arrested on child abuse charges that were later dropped.

But Brian Blair is a contender in the four-way Republican primary for the District 47 state House seat.

It's something that seems to shock even Blair himself, who has said he's surprised voters respond so well to him.

To find bad news about him, all they have to do is search the Internet, Blair said.

"You guys beat me up all the time," he said.

It started, Blair said, with his role in an unsuccessful attempt by county commissioners to gut the county's environmental protection department. It's something Blair stands by, saying the county department duplicates work done at the state level.

"I was trying to create a smaller, more efficient government," said Blair, who served four years on the commission until 2008.

More recently, Blair has been dogged by reports of his 18-year-old son's arrests. He said his son is struggling with a drug problem.

Blair, 53, is up against Irene Guy, 60, a retired lobbyist for Verizon; James Grant, 27, the son of former state Sen. John Grant; and Tom Aderhold, 66, owner of a human resources company.

"Brian Blair certainly has the best name [recognition] and is formidable with that alone," said Republican political consultant Chris Ingram.

Blair has cast himself as a fiscal conservative, making his opposition to a proposed 1-cent sales tax in Hillsborough County to pay for light rail, road improvements and expanded bus service a campaign issue.

His top priorities as the representative for the district that covers much of northwest Hillsborough include creating incentives to attract new businesses to the state and assessing properties based on nearby sales rather than development potential.

He said he opposes offshore oil drilling right now, but added, "Never say never."

He has targeted Grant and Guy in his campaign, raising their ire with an erroneous brochure.

The piece labeled Grant as a lobbyist, which is false, and blasted him for working for a law firm that represents people accused of sex crimes.

The mailer also says that Guy supports the proposed Hillsborough sales tax, something Guy said is untrue.

"It is interesting that a person who sued his opponent in his failed re-election in 2008 for false claims, only to lose his case recently, would now turn around and make distorted, false claims against me," Guy said.

She said it's also unfair for Blair to paint her as a lobbyist who advocated higher phone taxes.

"What I did do was lobby for opening markets for telephone service and cable service to provide citizens with a choice," she said.

Guy also pushed to increase eligibility for a program that provides financially needy families with low-cost phone service.

In her last six years with Verizon, she worked with the company to bring fiber-optic Internet and television service to the Tampa Bay area. She also managed a fund that awarded about $1 million a year to local charities.

Grant also said he finds Blair's attacks odd, particularly the jab about representing people accused of crimes.

"Brian, more than any other candidate, should appreciate that people can be arrested and the process has to play its way out," Grant said. "Without a justice system that requires due process of law, he'd still be in jail."

Grant describes himself as a devotee of conservative principles. He opposes abortion and believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. He would like to see the state replace property taxes with a consumption tax, something he said gives people more control over the taxes they pay and also addresses illegal immigration.

"If we move to a consumption-style tax, everyone is contributing — including people who are here illegally," he said. "They still have to buy things."

On offshore oil drilling, Grant said that if other countries are drilling in the gulf, the United States should, too.

Guy would support offshore oil drilling if she was sure it wouldn't negatively affect the state's tourism industry. For now, she supports exploring alternative energy sources.

Aderhold supports offshore oil drilling as long as it's done safely. He'd like to boost the state budget by taxing Internet sales. He proposes to address the state's property insurance pinch by establishing a multi-state hurricane insurance pool to handle high-risk properties.

The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Democrat Michael Steinberg in the November general election.

Steinberg believes he stands his best chance for victory against Blair.

"Brian is the most conservative candidate," he said. "I will be able to draw a more clear distinction between Brian and me on the issues."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Ex-commissioner grapples with image, record in state House race 08/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.