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For Hillsborough County Commission

The seven-member commission faces many challenges, from finding money for parks and transportation after five years of declining revenues to addressing homelessness and improving job development efforts. The commission also will confront regional issues such as securing freshwater, attracting tourism and new industry and retaining the Tampa Bay Rays.

District 2 (north county) Victor Crist, open primary

This race is a choice between a responsible Republican and one who parrots the fantasy that party extremists want to hear.

Victor Crist has represented this area well since being elected to the commission in 2010. His focus on jobs, redevelopment and social services is the right agenda for the diverse, north Hillsborough community. Crist understands the potential the district has to capitalize on the medical and research activity at the University of South Florida. He supports community-based plans, which bolster property values and quality of life. Crist's ability to see the broader picture also makes him more effective on the seven-member board.

Sharon Calvert is a first-time candidate who seems to think that traffic lights, clean water and other public services come for free. She sees little role for local government beyond providing for parks and public safety. The 54-year-old former business analyst would relax zoning laws to allow the market "to build where it wants." That should alarm anyone who knows what it's like to drive on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard or Dale Mabry Highway.

Crist, 55, knows the area well, having represented it for 18 years in the Legislature. He also is a budget hawk, but he knows the difference between cutting waste and starving a community. Crist's experience in economic development and his strong ties in this community are a plus. He well balances the needs of urban and rural areas, and his work ethic is unmatched.

Because these two Republicans are the only candidates running, this race is open to all voters. In the open primary for Hillsborough County Commission District 2, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Victor Crist.

District 6 (countywide) Don Kruse, Republicans

Republicans have a weak choice in the field to challenge the Democratic incumbent Kevin Beckner in November.

Don Kruse gets the edge for his knowledge of the county and his thoughtful approach toward job development. Kruse, 52, a small business owner, would use tax credits and direct development toward the urban core to rebuild the local economy. He would pursue high-tech employers and reduce spending by consolidating some county services. His plan to expand the use of reclaimed water and to limit urban sprawl would protect a county whose health and safety depends on its natural resources.

Margaret Iuculano offers a simplistic agenda for job growth. Her wholesale approach in cutting regulation and fees is poorly targeted and would worsen sprawl. An advocate for foster children, Iuculano, 45, has an overly partisan view of how to address local issues.

Kruse, who has run for the commission before, seems far more comfortable in the public eye. He is conversant on the wide range of issues that come before a countywide commissioner, and he appreciates the county's role in being a leader in regional partnerships. In the Republican primary for Hillsborough County Commission District 6, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Don Kruse.

Candidate replies The Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply. Candidates for Hillsborough County Commission should send their replies no later than 5 p.m. Tuesday to: Tim Nickens, editor of editorials, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; by fax: (727) 893-8675; or online at: Replies are limited to 150 words.

For Hillsborough County Commission 07/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 7:01pm]
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