TAMPA — The push is on to replace Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner in the wake of his porn-sending scandal.
Leaders of his own Republican Party report they are actively recruiting candidates to challenge him in the Aug. 14 primary election. Democrats, too, are seeing an opportunity to mount a campaign for the seat held by Turner for 16 years.
Turner has acknowledged he sent dozens of pornographic emails to his human resources director, then fired her this week as the news was about to break. But he said he has no intention of stepping down or abandoning his re-election bid.
Still, GOP leaders are increasingly denouncing him and saying there is no way he can remain in the race without a challenge.
"There will be a coordinated effort to find a Republican candidate to compete against Rob Turner," said Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini. "He should really sit down and think about if he wants to put the people in his party, and the people who have supported him, through this."
East county Republican Sam Rashid, a prominent fundraiser and campaigner, was among the first heavyweights from the party to say Turner should immediately step down. Rashid acknowledges he is now actively looking for candidates to take on Turner.
"If we let this Republican have a free pass, then we have no business pointing fingers at any member of another party who does something like this," he said. "This guy has stepped way beyond what would be a terminable offense in any other workplace."
Former Democratic state Rep. Bob Henriquez confirmed Thursday he is "seriously considering" announcing his candidacy for the job, which currently pays $154,523 a year.
"It's disheartening and tragic what's going on with Rob," Henriquez said. "At the same time, it creates an opportunity."
There is already an announced Democrat in the race, real estate broker James DeMio, as well as a candidate running without party affiliation, Rob Townsend.
There are immediate challenges for anyone now considering getting into the race.
One, the start of qualifying when candidates make their commitment to run official, is June 4-8. So a new challenger must make up his or her mind quickly.
Two, it's too late to qualify by collecting signatures from registered voters. So a candidate connected to a party must come up with a $9,699 qualifying fee.
Turner admitted in a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times that he sent more than 40 emails containing graphic pornographic images or links to porn sites to his human resources director, Carolyn Filippone, from late 2007 to early 2009. In the interview, he admitted dating Filippone not long after he was first elected, in the 2001 time frame, as he was undergoing a divorce with his previous wife.
The emails were exhibits in a sexual discrimination complaint filed by Filippone in 2010, then dismissed without action by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April.
Turner said they were part of a mutual exchange with Filippone and were sent during non-working hours on personal accounts.