Ronda Storms, Republicans
Property Appraiser Rob Turner's inexcusable behavior in sending pornographic email to an employee he dated and then firing her makes this race for Republicans less about real estate than judgment, integrity and leadership. Turner has lost his credibility and is no longer fit to run an otherwise sound operation.
There is nothing to celebrate about his sudden and surprising fall from grace. Turner, 60, turned around an office he first won 16 years ago, replacing the corrupt and inept operation Ron Alderman had in place and restoring public faith in the appraisal process. Turner brought on professionals and modernized the office. He went after corporations that abused property tax loopholes, and he made the valuations process more efficient and fair. He also created appeals procedures that made it easier for property owners to contest their tax assessments.
But Turner admitted in May that he sent pornographic email to an employee in the office he once dated. He fired her as the Tampa Bay Times was preparing an article, saying he did so because she made false claims against him to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is an unacceptable rationale that only raises larger questions about his judgment and fitness as a manager. He compounds the misconduct by minimizing the episode as a fleeting, insignificant blip on his record, which reflects either a tin ear or a warped sense of entitlement.
State Sen. Ronda Storms is hardly an ideal choice. As a Hillsborough County commissioner, she was a loose cannon, inflaming the cultural divide between urban and rural residents and tuning out or bad-mouthing those who disagreed with her. Storms, 46, seems to have mellowed since moving in 2006 to the Senate, where she thoroughly researched legislation and routinely asked tough questions. There are concerns about her transparency and her ability to act in an executive role. Storms, though, has a reputation for honesty. And her attention to detail is an essential quality for the job.
Turner wants Republicans to accept his abuse of office as the price for having an appraiser with the right technical skills. But there is a difference between ousting Turner and ousting the staff. What the elected appraiser does is set a standard — and the standard Turner has set is not what voters should tolerate in an elected official. In fairness to Storms, the fear of what she might do should not outweigh the damage the incumbent has already done. The appraiser's job also is much more ministerial in nature than the policymaking role of a county commissioner or state legislator.
The winner of the primary will face Democrat Bob Henriquez and two candidates running without party affiliation in the general election.
In the Aug. 14 Republican primary for Hillsborough County property appraiser, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Ronda Storms.