The qualifying deadline for Hillsborough County elections ended Friday, allowing unopposed candidates to celebrate bloodless victories and setting the stage for some potentially brutal political battles.
Three of the hottest races for the state Legislature are in Tampa Bay, all among Republicans running for the Senate. That body will undergo the greatest one-year turnover since voters approved term limits 20 years ago.
First-term Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, has three GOP challengers, including Rep. John Legg of Port Richey, for a redrawn Senate seat in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
Two St. Petersburg GOP lawmakers — Reps. Jeff Brandes and Jim Frishe — will face off in the Aug. 14 primary election for one new Senate seat in a district that also includes South Tampa. In east Hillsborough, two-term Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, will face former Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon.
In Hillsborough, the unopposed candidates who were swept back into office are Tax Collector Doug Belden, a Republican; Democrat Pat Frank, the clerk of circuit court; Republican County Commissioner Sandra Murman in District 1; and District 3 County Commissioner Les Miller, a Democrat.
Four other incumbents — state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; state Reps. Dana Young and James Grant, both Republicans from Tampa; and U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland — also drew no opposition. Ross' district includes Plant City and northeast Hillsborough. Grant had no competition in a northwest Hillsborough district.
Other candidates will have to shake some hands and kiss a few babies to earn their seats.
In what could be the most-watched race in the county, five candidates qualified to run for Hillsborough County property appraiser. That list is led by incumbent Republican Rob Turner, who recently acknowledged that he sent pornographic emails to his former human resources director.
Turner had appeared to have an easy road to re-election before the controversy, facing two relatively unknown challengers in James DeMio and Rob Townsend, neither of whom has any party affiliation.
But Turner now faces a primary challenge from Republican state Sen. Ronda Storms. Former state Rep. Bob Henriquez, a Democrat, also will be on the ballot in November.
Turner said the emails were part of a mutual, consensual exchange.
In another much-watched race, retirement rather than scandal has drawn a field of candidates to the supervisor of elections contest. Democrat Tom Scott, a former county commissioner and Tampa City Council member; Republican Rich Glorioso, a departing state representative; and Democrat Craig Latimer, deputy to retiring elections supervisor Earl Lennard, all qualified.
Sheriff David Gee, a Republican, has no primary opponent. In the general election, he will face Robert "Grumpy Bob" Wirengard, a write-in candidate with no party affiliation who resoundingly lost a bid for county judge in 2004.
Sharon Calvert, a co-founder of the Tampa tea party, will challenge fellow Republican and incumbent Victor Crist for the Hillsborough County Commission seat in District 2. Since there are no Democrats in the field, Democratic and independent voters can cast ballots in the August primary. Crist's district includes parts of north and east Hillsborough.
Republican Commissioner Al Higginbotham will not face any primary opponents in District 4 in east Hillsborough. Democrat Mark Nash and Joy Green, who has no party affiliation, will challenge him in November.
In the countywide commission race in District 6, Democrat Kevin Beckner will face one of two Republicans vying for the seat: Margaret Iuculano, an advocate for foster children who has tea party leanings, and Don Kruse, who has run unsuccessfully twice.
Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes will face business owner Eddy Calcines, who lost previous bids for the board and state House, in her race for re-election in District 1 in the county's northwest.
In School Board District 3, longtime incumbent Jack Lamb will face homemaker Cindy Stuart, who volunteers at her three children's Lake Magdalene-area schools after a career in insurance software development. The district comprises parts of north and east Hillsborough.
Henry Ballard Jr., a former school district employee, qualified to run in the School Board District 5 race in central Tampa against longtime educator Doretha Edgecomb.
A crowded field will vie for longtime incumbent Carol Kurdell's School Board seat in countywide District 7. Challenging Kurdell are "Captain" Carl Francis Kosierowski, who drives a school bus and teaches emergency first aid at the YMCA; Robert McElheny, vice president of Gator Ford, who majored in education in college; Terry Kemple; Michael Weston, a math teacher at Freedom High School; and Joseph W. Jordan-Robinson Jr.
Times staff writer Marlene Sokol and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.