Kevin White was run out of office as a Hillsborough County commissioner this week in appropriate style — disgraced, shellacked by his opponents and hounded by a county collection agent.
White lost his re-election bid in Tuesday's Democratic primary, placing last in a three-way race. Elective office was good to him while it lasted. He spent seven years on cruise control through one scandal after another — the attempt to raise his own pay, spending campaign donations on Italian suits, intervening with police on behalf of a woman White called his goddaughter. A federal jury's finding last year that White sexually harassed his aide apparently was the final straw. The campaign might have had better uses for donors' money than blowing it at P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Outback and La Terrazza.
Les Miller, the former state senator who won the primary, faces only token opposition in the general election and likely will take over when the new term begins in November. A decent and experienced public servant, Miller will need to rebuild the bridges White burned and find a way in this economy to put the county's poorest neighborhoods back on the county's radar. He can start by committing himself full-time to the job and moving quickly to address the two major issues in the district: the lack of jobs and the abundance of crime. The inner-city residents of east Tampa do not need a political fixer at County Center. They need a commissioner who has enough respect from his colleagues to act on housing, health care and other bread-and-butter issues.
Commissioners and staff are no doubt relieved that White will be turning in his keys. But there still is one piece of unfinished business. White's harassment of his aide left taxpayers on the hook for nearly $500,000 in damages and attorneys' fees. Tampa lawyer Richard Harrison — hats off to him — is working for free on the county's behalf in an attempt to force White to repay the money. The commission needs to see the case through. This is a matter of principle. It is unfair to force taxpayers across the county to pay for misconduct that White's own constituents found disgraceful enough to oust him from office.