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Sen. Victor Crist vies to be supervisor of elections in Hillsborough

TAMPA — State Sen. Victor Crist said Tuesday he will seek to replace Phyllis Busansky as Hills­borough County's supervisor of elections, making him the best known of eight candidates who have officially applied for the position so far.

Crist, a Republican who will be forced to leave his seat next year because of term limits, said he decided to apply for the $132,000 job after talking it over with his wife, Angela, last weekend

Busansky, a Democrat, died last week of natural causes at age 72.

"After giving this a lot of thought, I'm going to file papers and send in the application," Crist said. "I will make sure that the people of Hillsborough County will get the very finest service possible."

Crist, 52, already has filed to run for the County Commission next year, for a seat now held by Ken Hagan. Crist said he will continue to pursue that seat if he isn't appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist (no relation), who is also a Republican.

If Victor Crist is appointed, it would open up his Senate seat, which covers parts of Pasco and northern Hillsborough counties. A special election would be held to find a replacement for Crist if he's appointed.

The governor's office has received applications from seven other people. They are:

• David Agliano, 52, a Republican and owner of the Valencia Garden restaurant, which closed last month.

• Rosemary Goudreau, 53, an independent and the Tampa Tribune's editorial page editor from 2003 to 2008.

• Bob Henriquez, 44, a Democrat who is the circuit administrator for the Florida Department of Children and Families in Pasco and Pinellas counties and head football coach for Tampa Catholic High School. He served as a state representative from 1998 to 2006.

• Craig Latimer, 56, a Democrat and Busansky's chief of staff in the elections office. He is heading the office until a replacement is appointed. He has more than 35 years of experience in law enforcement, including his previous job as a major in the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

• Lee Nelson, 32, a Democrat and an information technology consultant who was a candidate for the supervisor's post last year before dropping out in April.

• Joe Robinson, 55, a Republican and an engineering consultant.

• Michael van Hoek, 50, a Democrat and a program director for career education at Southwest Florida College.

The governor has not set a deadline, and there is no set time frame for appointing a replacement, spokesman Sterling Ivey said.

So far, Victor Crist is the obvious pick, said Todd Pressman, a Republican who is chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

"I'm convinced the governor is going to pick a Republican," Pressman said. "If he does, he's got to appoint someone credible. And Victor Crist is a good Charlie Crist Republican, a moderate who has instant credibility."

But Pat Kemp, chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, said the governor shouldn't automatically appoint a Republican.

"If you're respecting the legacy of Phyllis and the voters, well, they did elect a Democrat," Kemp said. "But truly, we have to look at the office and determine the best way it can be managed in the next 18 months. I think it's important we have someone who can do the job and take the politics out of it."

Times staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report. Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3402 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

Sen. Victor Crist vies to be supervisor of elections in Hillsborough 06/30/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 10:33pm]

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