TAMPA — The results of a straw poll for local party activists suggests Jim Norman could have problems restarting his political career.
Norman, a former state senator and four-term county commissioner, lost to the comparatively little-known Tim Schock by 66-13 in the Hillsborough County Republican Party's straw vote on the District 6 county commissioner's race.
Meanwhile, in the District 60 state House primary, Rebecca Smith beat Jackie Toledo 72-25.
In the primary to choose a Republican opponent for U. S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Eddie Adams beat Christine Quinn 44-26.
The local party executive committee held the straw poll Tuesday after a candidate forum.
Norman, formerly a powerful force in East Hillsborough politics, withdrew from his state Senate re-election campaign in 2012 after admitting to ethics violations for failing to disclose a loan of more than $400,000 from a political supporter to his wife. She used it to buy an Arkansas vacation home.
Norman's past didn't come up explicitly in the forum, but Schock took veiled shots without naming him.
Schock criticized "cronyism and back-room deals" and "career politicians," saying: "We need new people and fresh ideas."
Smith, a construction company founder and first-time candidate, was recruited by party leaders for the race to replace Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, but faces a spirited challenge from Toledo, who narrowly lost a Tampa City Council race last year.
Norman: "Barack Obama can go to hell"
Asked at the GOP candidate forum about President Barack Obama's directive on allowing transgender students access to the restrooms of their choice, Norman told a GOP gathering Tuesday that Obama "can go to hell."
All the candidates at the forum opposed the policy, but Norman's statement was the most aggressive, including recounted his staunch opposition to a county ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gays.
"You're going to have to take me to jail because I would stand up against that," he said. "If my daughter … went into a restroom and someone with a beard tried to follow her in, they'd have to run. So Obama can go to hell on that."
The audience of GOP activists applauded enthusiastically.
County firefighter endorsements
The politically influential Hillsborough County Firefighters Union is backing Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank, state Rep. Ed Narain and Sean Shaw in three of the county's hottest primary races.
Frank faces county Commissioner Kevin Beckner in the primary for the clerk's office. Narain has two opponents in the Democratic state Senate District 19 primary, and Shaw has two in Florida's District 61 House race.
The firefighters didn't take sides in the hard-fought District 6 county commissioner's race, but are likely to in the general election, said President Derrik Ryan.
They endorsed in only one judicial race, Gary Dolgin for circuit judge.
Ryan said more judicial and school board endorsements are likely, and the union probably will back a Democrat, Rena Frazier or Golnaz Sahebzamani, in the race for the House District 59 seat.
Smith claims backing of state GOP leaders
Rebecca Smith is making it clear she's the choice of Republican leaders in the state House District 60 primary.
Smith just announced an endorsement from former Gov. Bob Martinez. The host committee for her campaign kickoff included Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, major donors Martin Garcia and Kathleen Shanahan and other big local GOP names. The campaign expects to announce more endorsements.
In response, Toledo is portraying herself as the outsider in the race.
"I didn't receive a call from Tallahassee to run," Toledo told the audience at the GOP forum. "I'm running because I care about our community."
Smith has publicly noted that her campaign started with a call from Tallahassee, and she has piled up contributions from lobbyists and PACs.
But Smith, a first-time candidate, says she's far from an insider.
"For years, I've been working to build my business and working in the community," she said. "I certainly haven't been running with the Republican Party insiders."
Going to the dogs
Smith founded the successful A.D. Morgan Corp. construction company, which makes people wonder: Why isn't it the Rebecca Smith Corp.?
In her stump speech, she says when she founded the company 28 years ago, she named it after her golden retrievers, Addie and Morgan.
It was unusual to see women take lead roles in the construction industry at the time, she told the Tampa Bay Times, and she didn't want to limit the company's potential.
William March can be reached at [email protected]