Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Politics

March column: Ober going fishing, sleeping well for first time in years

"I'm great," was Mark Ober's response in a phone chat this week when asked how he was feeling after his unexpected loss of the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, which he's held for 16 years.

"I'm at peace with where I am in life," Ober said. "I've been fortunate to have served the citizens for 16 years in a career of 40 years. I've been blessed."

Ober said he went fishing both days last weekend, and has had some of the best nights' sleep he's had in years.

But he said he can't predict whether a major shakeup on the office staff will result under his successor, Andrew Warren. Some insiders have predicted a swarm of office employees besieging local law firms for jobs, based partly on the number of Ober's employees who campaigned for him.

Warren has said he plans only "some tweaking," not a major shakeup.

Ober's chief assistant, Michael Sinacore, has already resigned to go to work for the U.S. attorney.

Mark Cox, chief of investigations and public information spokesman for Ober, who was active in Ober's campaign, said he wants to talk to Warren and would be interested in staying on, "depending on what role he has in mind for me," but added, "My eyes are open" about the possibility that Warren will want to make changes.

Tampa City Council race unpredictable

In the Tampa City Council District 7 runoff election coming up Dec. 6, Luis Viera looks like a frontrunner measured by campaign cash and endorsements, while a StPetePolls robopoll shows Jim Davison leading.

But the likelihood of very low turnout means this election could be highly unpredictable.

As of Nov. 17, the end of the last reporting period, Viera had raised $88,359 and spent $73,962.19, leaving him $14,396.71 in the bank, his reports show.

Davison had raised $15,890.30 and spent $13,218.74, leaving $2,671.56.

Supervisor of Elections office figures show 21 percent of the district's registered voters are black and 16 percent Hispanic.

The StPetePolls survey, meanwhile, showed Davison leading 42-35 percent.

But who will vote?

A District 7 City Council runoff held on the normal spring date in 2011 drew only 3,887 voters, less than 9 percent turnout.

Turnout in this pre-holiday runoff among the current 53,698 registered voters is likely to be even lower; insiders are speculating either candidate could win with 2,500 votes or less.

Partisan overtones add another wild card to the officially non-partisan race. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district 23,461-13,640.

Townsend unchallenged for Dems chair

Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chairwoman Ione Townsend appears likely to coast to re-election to a full term when the local party holds its reorganization meeting Dec. 5.

That follows an election in which the county went Democratic in local races and the presidential race, but Republican in state legislative races; and a year in which the local party doesn't appear to have made much progress in expanding its membership and organizational reach.

As of now, party leaders say, no other candidate has made known plans to challenge Townsend.

She'll be running for the full, two-year term after taking office in January when former Chairwoman Elizabeth Belcher left the post.

Meanwhile, the party, which now has about 120 precinct representatives, will start the year with only 69, the number who applied before the primary election. Townsend acknowledges that's a disappointingly small number. There are open spots for at least one, and in some cases up to four, from each of the county's 340 precincts.

But Townsend said based on reaction from local Democrats after the Nov. 8 election, she expects many people to apply for appointed precinct spots next year.

Contact William March at [email protected]

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