Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Politics

State Sen. Jim Norman draws opponent in GOP primary

TAMPA — State Sen. Jim Norman won't return to his seat in Tallahassee without a challenge from within his own party.

John Korsak, 39, a Republican Party activist and homeland security consultant from Lutz, has announced his candidacy for the seat in the Aug. 14 primary, saying the state is in need of a rebuilding that can't be achieved by an "ethically challenged senator."

"What we need in Tallahassee is less cronyism and more people of character," he said in a statement.

Korsak's comments appeared to be a direct reference to last year's criminal investigation into the 2006 acquisition by Norman's wife of a lakefront Arkansas home with the help of $500,000 from one of her husband's political benefactors.

Federal officials ultimately announced the purchase and gift from late businessman Ralph Hughes broke no laws. The Florida Commission on Ethics is reviewing the matter.

Korsak declined to discuss what he was specifically referencing beyond saying that people of District 12, which takes in part of northern Hillsborough and southern Pasco counties, deserve a choice "between crony political activity and someone with ethics and good moral character."

He said he will work to create a state that relies less on the federal government, treats people equally and lessens regulation and taxes. Mostly, he said, he wants to restore trust in government.

Norman, in his first term as a senator after 18 years as a Hillsborough County commissioner, did not return a phone call seeking comment. He has raised $159,120 for his re-election bid, state records show.

In an interview and on his website, Korsak laid out beliefs resembling many tea party planks, but he rejected any label beyond Republican. Even there, he said he doesn't always support party priorities.

He said he believes government should focus primarily on programs and activities contemplated in the U.S. and Florida constitutions. His website says his platform is based on eight topics, starting with the economy and including education, the environment, education, gun rights and public-sector unions.

Regulations that thwart economic growth should be curbed, as should the tax burden on businesses, he said. Various educational priorities should be vetted, he said, from the federal No Child Left Behind to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

He considers federal school spending as "extra-constitutional," saying education decisions should be made by government closest to the people. The FCAT only encourages teaching to the test rather than promoting critical thinking, he said.

Korsak calls state programs that purchase and preserve environmentally sensitive areas a land grab. He said he doesn't oppose public-sector unions, but questions their right to collectively bargain for wages and benefits. He also would like to phase out pensions for newly hired state and local government workers and move them into 401(k)-style retirement accounts.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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