Sandra L. Murman | District 1 (south county)
Sandra L. Murman had a so-so record as a state legislator, but she generally was good on issues affecting children and those in need of social services. An open working style made her effective across political lines. That experience and her ties in the community make her the strongest choice in this race.
Murman, 59, represented much of this same south county district while in the Florida House from 1996 to 2004. Her agenda in this county race is boilerplate conservative: spending caps, budget cuts and no new taxes. Murman needs to get up to speed on the details of county government. But she does have a broad grasp of how government agencies at various levels can save money by working together. She knows how to make progress addressing health care, social and criminal justice needs. And no local candidate this year can match the time Murman has spent over the past two decades serving a range of civic organizations.
Trey Rustmann, 40, is a first-time candidate who works at a Tampa employment staffing firm. A major in the Marine Corps reserves, he said he wants to fill a leadership void on the commission. Rustmann has an engaging personality, and he offers a broad vision for creating jobs and improving the area's quality of life. But his civic involvement in the six years he has lived in Tampa has been thin.
Murman offers virtually the same platform but much richer community experience. In the Republican primary for Hillsborough County Commission District 1, the Times recommends Sandra L. Murman.
Victor Crist | District 2 (north county)
State Sen. Victor Crist is another old Tallahassee hand who seems to have spent more time running for county office than examining what the job entails. Still, Crist is a good fit for local office. As a state legislator, he focused on the struggling neighborhoods near the University of South Florida in north Tampa. He also is a good retail politician: accessible, open, hard-working and committed to constituent service.
Crist, 53, is term-limited out of his Senate seat, which he won in 2000 after serving the maximum eight years in the House. He has the wrong idea to postpone investments in mass transportation (as does his opponent) but he is very familiar with the region's assets — USF, MacDill Air Force Base, the city centers and the beaches — and he wants to leverage these institutions to attract better jobs. Crist also is a strong advocate of developing the urban core. That should be a key issue for all those in this district who want to hold on to their suburban or semirural lifestyles.
Linda Pearson is a 60-year-old land planning consultant. The Plant City native has been involved with public and civic boards for decades. She knows the governing process, and her institutional history would be a plus. But she is vague about how she would manage growth, consolidate public services and cut government spending.
Crist needs to become a better listener to be effective in local office, but he has a better overall view and a record of being pragmatic. In the Republican primary for Hillsborough County Commission District 2, the Times recommends Victor Crist.
Mark Sharpe | District 7 (countywide)
Mark Sharpe is the incumbent, and he stands apart for his thoughtful and open deliberative style and his willingness to take the lead on tough issues. He was the driving force on the commission behind attracting high-tech and biomedical industries to the region, and he has worked hard to build support for a seamless transportation network throughout Tampa Bay. This sort of long-term vision — and Sharpe's willingness to promote it — is what residents should seek in a countywide commissioner.
Sharpe is a budget hawk and conservative on the major policy issues. He was the first on the commission to realize the need for the county to fundamentally rethink how it delivered public services amid the faltering economy. First elected in 2004, the 50-year-old Sharpe is a calming influence on the board. His background in the military gives him a methodical approach to problem-solving. He broke with some Republicans by supporting a penny sales tax increase to fund road and mass transit improvements and build a light rail system. But he is a stand-up, conservative commissioner who does his homework, avoids partisan grandstanding and offers common sense.
Josh Burgin said he was driven to run because of Sharpe's support for the transit package. The 34-year-old party activist and former county aide is bright and personable, and he wants to become more involved in his community. But Sharpe has a better grasp of the complexities of job development, environmental protection and other initiatives. He also grasps how a countywide commissioner needs to balance the needs of both the urbanized areas and the suburbs. In the Republican primary for Hillsborough County Commission District 7, the Times recommends Mark Sharpe.
District 3 (central county)
Residents in central and east Tampa have suffered for years because their commissioner, Kevin White, has lost clout and authority with a torrent of shameful behavior. Democrats have the chance to sweep the stain away with fresh, new leadership that can put the interests of the county's poorest district back on the radar. Newcomer Valerie Goddard is the best hope for a clean break.
Goddard, a 45-year-old child welfare advocate, supports new spending for mass transit and targeted investments that could vastly improve the county's job development efforts. She has a firm grasp of how government operates and a long record of serving the community through the county's children's board. Goddard also appreciates that District 3 has many diverse needs beyond social services in east Tampa.
Les Miller demonstrated his capability to work across party lines during his 14 years in the Florida House and Senate. He is decent and respectful and would work well on the seven-member board. Miller, a 59-year-old Tampa native, also has the right priorities for the district: jobs, public safety and health care. But he brings little passion or urgency to the campaign. There is a sense in the community that he has had his time.
White, 45, has been a disgrace in public office, and he insults the voters by seeking re-election. It was bad enough a federal jury found that he sexually harassed his female aide; now the commission has hired lawyers to make White pay the monetary damages he has cost taxpayers with his indefensible behavior. He has no credibility left at County Center.
Goddard is dynamic enough to fight for the district's fair share of services. She also could bring back to the office the credibility that the incumbent destroyed. In the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County Commission District 3, the Times recommends Valerie Goddard.