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Ronda Storms, Rachel Burgin, Rich Glorioso grab opportunity to campaign at Brandon chamber luncheon

BRANDON — Recent political hopscotching turned an annual luncheon into an informal campaigning opportunity for three politicians making news in heated-up local elections.

Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce members dined Wednesday with state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, and state Reps. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, and Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City.

All three are seeking election to offices different from their current positions.

Storms wants to oust Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner, who is embroiled in controversy after admitting to the Tampa Bay Times that he sent pornography to an employee whom he fired after she complained of sexual discrimination.

At the luncheon, Storms said she wouldn't have joined the property appraiser's race if Turner had "agreed to man up and resign." By contesting him, she hoped to hold him accountable for his actions.

Former state Rep. Bob Henriquez, a Democrat, also entered the race for property appraiser last week, joining real estate broker James DeMio and Rob Townsend, who is running without party affiliation.

Storms' exit from the state Senate opened up her seat, which now represents an area including the University of South Florida, New Tampa, Brandon, Plant City and Sun City Center.

Burgin quickly declared her candidacy for that seat, promoting herself as a pro-business candidate with strong conservative values. She will challenge former Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon.

Though Glorioso contemplated entering the senate race, remaining undecided at the luncheon, he announced Thursday that he will stick with his run for Hillsborough supervisor of elections.

He said he has long aspired to the state Senate, but he felt the elections supervisor's role would promote the democratic process that he had represented in the House and the military.

Glorioso will face the winner of the August primary between two Democrats: former Hillsborough County Commissioner Tom Scott and Craig Latimer, the current chief deputy to outgoing Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard.

With the changing dynamics, the three candidates spoke at Wednesday's event broadly about their accomplishments throughout their years in public office.

Storms highlighted her bill to crack down on selling food stamps and limiting the types of items that can be bought with food stamps.

Burgin discussed the state's balanced budget and tough cuts, later mentioning an interest in reducing local human trafficking.

Glorioso covered his legislation to support foster children, keep sexual offenders away from children and consolidate government.

Other top topics included job creation and the new Florida Polytechnic University.

Burgin and Glorioso both favored lowering corporate taxes to encourage business growth.

It's a theme that resonated with the room full of business folks, said Adam Bantner, co-chairman of the Brandon chamber's government and economic advisory council.

"They have jobs on their minds, and that's what we have on our minds," he said.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

.Fast Facts

How they voted on Polytechnic

The state Legislature created Florida's 12th public university during its last session, effectively dismantling the University of South Florida's polytechnic campus in Lakeland to make way for an independent Florida Polytechnic University. But many criticized the politics behind it, with state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, driving the legislation and threatening to cut funding from USF.

Here's how three local politicians voted on the split:

State Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, said he was one of three House Republicans who voted against separating the polytechnic campus from USF. He would have preferred a five-year transition to independence but acknowledged the state's need for the "brain train." With the immediate Polytechnic split, Glorioso foresees obstacles with attaining accreditation for the new university. That may affect students' abilities to get loans or cause professors to struggle to win grants, he said.

State Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, voted for the separation, but she said she did so to side with the students who were suffering from the discord. Burgin wanted USF to avoid losing millions of dollars in funding. She also said she supported having another state university to expand local offerings for Florida students as a long-term benefit. Burgin broadly called for more general reform of the state's higher education system to keep top students in Florida.

State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, strongly favored Polytechnic's creation. She likened it to having universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cal Tech or Georgia Tech. She said Polytechnic will draw people to Florida, facilitating a transition from the state's tourism focus to becoming more competitive in technology. She doesn't expect to see short-term payoffs but says the long-term results will show in 20 years. And the split from USF was needed, Storms said: "USF would've starved it to death."

Ronda Storms, Rachel Burgin, Rich Glorioso grab opportunity to campaign at Brandon chamber luncheon 06/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 4:31am]
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