Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Politics

Pasco commission race keeps clean, civilized tone

Did you expect a rollicking campaign to replace longtime County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand?

After all, it's the first time since 1984 that Hildebrand isn't running for District 3. Many folks thought the rare open seat would attract a no-holds-barred fight.

It hasn't turned out that way.

The campaign between former School Board member Kathryn Starkey and utility contractor Matt Murphy has been decidedly sleepy. Both have mostly stuck to positive talking points and they actually agree on several issues. That contrasts with testy contests in the August primary that resulted in narrow victories for two incumbent commissioners.

"There hasn't been a brawl," Murphy said, chuckling.

Said Starkey: "We've had a very nice, clean, civilized campaign."

And the rare point of contention is Starkey's ties to the development community. Her family recently won approval of a major development plan for the remaining 2,500 acres of Starkey Ranch near Odessa.

Votes concerning that project likely will come before the commission in the coming months.

"I can be more objective because I'm not so tied to the special interests," said Murphy, a Democrat.

Even if Starkey recuses herself from votes that would be of benefit to her family, Murphy said that means that "one-fifth of the county doesn't get a vote on some of the most important issues in our county."

Murphy also noted that a significant portion of Starkey's campaign contributions come from development interests. "I don't think if she was going to be tough on them that would be the case. That's just a concern."

Starkey, a Republican, pointed to her earlier work on the county's billboard and landscaping ordinances that seek to make the county prettier but can sometimes drive up costs for developers. Citing a "steep learning curve," she also said it is helpful to have a commissioner who understands the development process.

"I could be in an uncomfortable position dealing with friends," she said. "But that is part of the job. Every commissioner has that. I'm confident they'll understand if I don't necessarily agree with their position."

Starkey has the support of much of Pasco's political establishment and holds a wide fundraising lead. Through the first two weeks of October, she raised $103,000 and still had $38,000 left to spend. Murphy collected $16,600 and had about $2,800 on hand.

She is using that financial advantage to help make the closing case to voters. She said her campaign recently mailed 63,000 fliers to people who requested absentee ballots. Murphy said he also recently sent out mailers and will be "hitting any event that's got people at it" in the closing days.

More than 36,000 Pasco voters have already cast mail-in ballots, and early voting began Saturday. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Murphy acknowledged his campaign has been hampered by his job, which requires him to travel frequently to the northeast. For example, he had to miss a candidate debate organized by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce because of a last-minute meeting in Maryland. He promised that, if elected, he would resign from his job to focus full-time as a commissioner.

But he also called his business experience an asset. He is a project manager for a utility contractor that does work for city and county governments. Before that, he was a civil engineer in the U.S. Air Force. He said that gives him in-depth knowledge about municipalities' infrastructure needs.

"I'm very familiar with what the needs are," he said. "I'm in business every day. I'm not a part timer."

Former Commissioner Michael Cox supports Murphy but is also friends with Starkey. He attributed the low-key tone to the fact that both candidates respect each other.

"Matt got into the race when there was a bunch of the wackos in the Republican Party running," he said. "Kathryn was not in the race. By the time she got in, it was really too late to do something else."

In a five-person GOP primary in August, Starkey benefitted from her six years as a School Board member and her well-known family name. She handily won with 43 percent of the vote, more than twice the share of her closest challenger.

State Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, said the quiet campaign favors Starkey, who has a higher name identification among voters. Corcoran, who defeated Starkey in a heated House primary election in 2010, praised her and others who "campaign like they're 10 points down even though they feel like they're in a strong position."

"Kathryn works it," he said. "Trust me, I know."

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18