Friday, April 20, 2018
Politics

March column: Hagan wants to keep working on transportation, baseball

County Commissioner Ken Hagan says he'll start raising money for a future political race next month. He's just not sure yet which one.

Hagan cannot seek re-election to his countywide commissioner's seat in 2019 because of term limits.

His two main options are the Tampa mayor's race and the District 2 commissioner's seat being vacated by Victor Crist.

"The short answer is I'm undecided," Hagan said this week. "I'm asked daily."

"I want to remain in public service" to deal with unfinished business, including a transportation initiative and a long-term home for the Rays, he said. "I'm encouraged every day to run for mayor, but I'm pragmatic and I'm aware that's a challenging task for a Republican."

Tampa is a heavily Democratic city.

To run for mayor, Hagan also would have to move by March 2018, to satisfy the residency requirement for mayoral candidates. He currently lives just outside the city limits.

But if he ran for a district county commissioner's seat, he might face criticism about his lengthy tenure on the board. Hagan has served continuously since 2002, switching from a district seat to a countywide seat in 2010 to restart his term limit clock.

He could raise money for either the mayor's race or the county race, but if he changed his mind, he'd have to ask donors' permission to shift the money from one race to the other. Or, he could raise money for an independent committee which could support him for either office.

Murman looking at mayor's race?

Insiders say Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman is also being asked by friends and supporters to look at the mayor's race and is considering it.

"I am not closing out any options … I am always willing to step up and serve as the community asks me to serve," Murman said in response to a text message. She has also expressed interest in switching to a countywide commissioner seat in 2018, restarting her term limit clock.

Young boosting craft brewers

Look for state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, to continue championing craft breweries in the coming legislative session, this time seeking to allow the small brewers limited ability to distribute their own products to retailers.

Young didn't want to discuss it until she's ready to file a bill.

But depending on the details, it could stir opposition from Florida's politically powerful beverage distributors industry. They favor maintaining the "three-tier" system requiring that brewing, distributing and retail sales be handled by different companies.

They've agreed to exceptions to help foster the popular microbrew industry, including retail sales in tasting rooms at breweries. But they don't want to destroy the system, which they view as an anti-monopoly and pro-temperance measure, said Mitch Rubin of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association.

Lawmakers push license reform

Several Tampa Bay legislators will lead another effort in this year's session to reform the state's system of suspending driver's licenses for non-traffic infractions and requiring large fees or late penalties for reinstatement.

Those involved include Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Dana Young of Tampa; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; and Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa.

Many legislators agree the system creates an unjust burden for the working poor. Stories are common of those who lose jobs because they can't drive to work and can't afford license reinstatement costs after losing a license because of inability to pay a court-ordered fee unrelated to driving.

Brandes said the Legislature has wanted to pass the bill for several sessions, but hasn't because fees and penalties are a major source of funding for clerks of court. Many clerks, including Hillsborough's Pat Frank, agree the system needs to change but say they're already suffering from budget cuts and struggling to maintain service levels.

State money for Ybor's Cuban Club?

In other local legislative action, Rouson and Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa, will make an appropriation request for $1 million for structural repairs at the Cuban Club in Ybor City. Support columns in the 100-year-old building are showing cracks because of rusted reinforcement bars inside them, said President Patrick Manteiga.

Clendenin coming back to Tampa

Alan Clendenin will give up his trailer in Bradford County and move back to Tampa following his failed bid to become state Democratic Party chairman, he said this week.

Clendenin will continue to support and raise money for Democratic candidates and serve as a Democratic National Committee member, but no longer holds any position in the state or local parties, he said.

He moved to Bradford to become a local party official there so he could qualify to run for state chairman, but lost to Stephen Bittel.

Contact William March at [email protected]

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