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Hillsborough commission primaries: White narrowly wins, Higginbotham and Kemp easily advance

After declaring victory in the Hillsborough County Commission District 4 race Tuesday night, Stacy White gets a kiss from his mother, Marilyn McMurry, with his wife, Barbie, left, and son Austin, right, as they celebrate at the Beef ‘O’ Bradys in Valrico.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

After declaring victory in the Hillsborough County Commission District 4 race Tuesday night, Stacy White gets a kiss from his mother, Marilyn McMurry, with his wife, Barbie, left, and son Austin, right, as they celebrate at the Beef ‘O’ Bradys in Valrico.

TAMPA — Stacy White said all along it didn't matter that his opponents for Hillsborough County Commission in District 4 had more money. White had name recognition as a School Board member, he said, and a track record as a "proven conservative," which matters in his native east Hillsborough.

White was right. The 42-year-old Valrico pharmacist overcame a sizable spending disadvantage to claim a narrow win Tuesday in the Republican primary in District 4, according to unofficial results, which all but guarantees him a spot on the commission.

White's campaign declared victory late Tuesday night, with 97 percent of precincts reporting. He edged environmental consultant Janet Dougherty. Retired Tampa police detective Rick Cochran finished third. Neither Dougherty nor Cochran returned calls for comment Tuesday.

White faces only a write-in candidate in the November general election. He won despite spending only $72,000, to Dougherty's $199,000, and Cochran's $150,000.

"I'm honored and humbled to have won against two very formidable opponents," said White, who celebrated at a Beef 'O' Brady's restaurant in Valrico. "I'm ready to move on, begin the healing process and start to lay the groundwork for becoming a commissioner who will work on real issues that are important to the people of this district."

In the race for countywide District 7, two well-known political figures advanced to the general election. Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who is leaving District 4 due to term limits, romped in the Republican primary. Higginbotham will face former Hillsborough Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Kemp, who decisively bested Mark Nash.

"I'm grateful, humbled and honored by the support I have, in east Hillsborough and throughout the county," said Higginbotham, 60, who cruised to a win over three lesser-known, and lesser-funded, opponents. Higginbotham spent about $218,000. His opponents, Tim Schock, Robin Lester and Don Kruse, combined spent $84,000.

Kemp, celebrating Tuesday night at the Independent bar and restaurant in Seminole Heights, foreshadowed her sales pitch to voters in the general election.

"Across the county, people are wanting transit, and Al Higginbotham has been a voice against it," said Kemp, 57. "I think this is confirmation out there that people are ready for change."

Nash, who riled some in Democratic circles with a negative ad this month assailing Kemp's leadership when she led Hillsborough's Democratic Party, blamed low turnout for his defeat. He was conciliatory, though, and said he'd throw his support behind Kemp.

"It is critical that we bring some fresh ideas and fresh perspective," Nash said. "I'm excited about what the County Commission will be with Pat Kemp on it."

With four seats up for election, 2014 opened as a year that could bring change to the Hillsborough commission. White could be the only new face in November, though.

Ken Hagan drew no opposition and was automatically re-elected in District 5. Incumbent Republican Victor Crist, running for re-election in north Hillsborough's District 2, has a sizable fundraising advantage over Democrat Elizabeth Belcher.

The winners in November will serve four-year terms. Hillsborough commissioners earn $95,523 annually.

Contact Will Hobson at whobson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough commission primaries: White narrowly wins, Higginbotham and Kemp easily advance 08/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 12:04am]
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