Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Politics

March column: Commissioner Ken Hagan taking third bite at term-limits apple

After months of mulling his political future and considering a run for mayor of Tampa, county Commissioner Ken Hagan this week settled on a jump to another county position — the District 2 commission seat representing northern Hillsborough, the university area and Brandon.

Hagan faces a term limit next year in his the countywide seat he now holds. The District 2 seat is now held by Commissioner Victor Crist, who also faces a term limit and has said he'll run for a countywide seat replacing either Hagan or Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who's retiring.

"I always assume that I will receive primary and general election opposition, and I campaign and fundraise as if I'm behind in both," Hagan said after filing his candidacy papers Thursday. He said his goal is to raise $400,000 by the end of the year. If he succeeds, that could give pause to potential opponents.

Hagan faces a potential hurdle this year — criticism that moving back and forth between district and at-large seats evades the intent if not the letter of county term-limits laws. He served eight years in a district seat before winning two full terms in his current countywide seat. If he wins the District 2 seat, it will be his third bite at the term-limits apple.

"I'm sure there will be critics regarding term limits and that's a valid issue," Hagan said. "The charter specifically doesn't address this issue because it envisioned experience and knowledge being important. I believe the ultimate arbiter of term limits is the ballot box."

There's an outside chance of another obstacle: A run for the District 2 seat is one option being considered by state Sen. Tom Lee. Lee has said he'll decide at the end of the legislative session whether to run for state chief financial officer, the Senate or the District 2 commissioner's seat.

Young, Rouson bills face dim prospects

Two bills among the highest priorities of state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, in the current legislative session appear dead — a fracking ban and a bill to allow craft brewers limited rights to distribute their own beer.

Both bills have progressed in the Senate but their House companion bills haven't had committee hearings, and it's past the deadline for the subcommittees to consider them. That means they're dead, failing extraordinary action by legislative leaders.

Young held a powerful leadership post in the House, majority leader, but is a freshman in the Senate.

Young filed the fracking ban after environmentalists accused her during her hard-fought 2016 campaign — falsely, she said — of backing previous legislation that would allow it.

Big oil interests oppose the ban, and the large and politically active beer distribution industry opposed the self-distribution bill — exempting craft brewers from state laws requiring separation of beer brewing, distribution and retailing operations.

There's at least one other bill filed with fanfare by a local senator that never got a hearing in either House: a proposal by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, to have Florida join a national movement of states to elect the president by popular vote instead of through the Electoral College.

Beckner a finalist for civil service job

Former county Commissioner Kevin Beckner is one of four finalists for the job of director of the county Civil Service Board. Another is Alma Gonzalez, the board's employee relations manager and a high-level Democratic Party activist.

Beckner's resume lists no experience in employment law or human resources organizations, but he said his eight years as commissioner and experience in running small businesses give him that experience. After hitting his term limit as a commissioner last year, he lost in the primary for clerk of court.

Attendance doubles for Planned Parenthood event

Local Planned Parenthood members are thrilled at what they call an unusually large turnout for the organization's annual fundraising lunch in Tampa, attributing it to a backlash from the presidential election.

The event at the Jewish Community Center sold out with some 500 attendees at $75 a head, roughly double previous years' attendance, said member Susan Smith. Dahlia Lithwick, a veteran Supreme Court and reproductive rights reporter, spoke on the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch and on abortion restrictions passed by states including Florida.

"Women are angry and they feel threatened," Smith said. "They don't like that their health is being taken away, that their reproductive choice rights could be taken away."

Regional Planned Parenthood chief Barbara Zdravecky Southwest Florida said the organization's three events this year have all sold out.

Congress members take but don't give

One reader reacted to last week's Buzz item on members of Congress who don't accept or respond to email communications from people outside their districts: Those members "show no such discipline when asking for my campaign donations," said prominent GOP donor Gil Singer of Tampa.

City Hall gospel choir welcomes Maniscalco

Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco stuck out a bit when the City Hall volunteer gospel choir performed at Mayor Bob Buckhorn's State of the City speech last week – he was one of two non-black members.

He's never sung in a choir before, he said, but he likes to sing hymns in church, so he responded to an email from organizer Regina Lock-DePass looking for volunteers.

"I figured I'd try the first rehearsal and see if I could keep up, and they'd tell me if I wasn't good enough. They said 'Great, we've never had a City Council member before.' "

Contact William March at [email protected]

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