It didn’t get much notice, but some recent muscle-flexing by the new Democratic Hillsborough County commissioners majority, led by Pat Kemp, got Republican Commissioner Sandy Murman getting kicked off the Port Tampa Bay governing board.
That’s a prestigious appointment that can also be a source of campaign contributions, and Murman has held it for years. But Kemp used a procedural maneuver to put herself in direct competition with Murman for the seat, then won on a 4-3 party line vote in the board’s organizational meeting.
The port is one of some two dozen local boards that must include one or more county commissioners. The commissioners traditionally divvy them up by going around the table, each stating a first choice. With so many boards and commissioners seeking to stay in their areas of expertise, conflicts are rare.
But this year, Kemp moved to start with appointments to two boards all the Democrats wanted seats on — HART and the Metropolitan Planning Organization boards, which deal with transit issues. Republicans weren’t interested and all four Democrats got seats on both.
With that out of the way, they reverted to the traditional procedure, and Kemp named the port board as her first choice, competing with Murman.
Murman expressed her frustration during the meeting, and insiders say she’s angry, but she didn’t return calls for comment this week.
Kemp denied she was targeting Murman.
“I was just interested in looking at the port authority and learning more about it,” Kemp said. With Murman term-limited in 2020, she said, another commissioner should gain port expertise.
“Honestly I feel bad about (Murman being unsatisfied), but it’s not personal — elections have consequences,” Kemp said. “It’s appropriate for us (the Democratic majority) to assert ourselves.”
It may not be their last conflict.
Murman could remain a commissioner after 2020 by winning a countywide seat — and the only one on the ballot will be Kemp’s.