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Smith, Scott victorious in // HILLSBOROUGH COMMISSION

Published Jul. 6, 2006

South Tampa businessman Larry Smith fought off a hardworking challenger Tuesday to win the Republican nomination for the countywide Hillsborough Commission seat.

Smith now faces Democrat Jan Platt, a formidable four-term commission veteran, in the general election next month.

And in an even closer race Tuesday, the Rev. Thomas Scott carried his theme of new leadership to a slim victory over veteran African-American politician Perry Harvey Jr. in the Democratic runoff for the Hillsborough Commission District 3 seat.

"The citizens want fresh leadership, with vision, leadership that will work with the total community, and work with all people, with integrity," Scott said.

Both winners had finished in second place in September. Countywide turnout was about 17 percent.

In the countywide race, Smith faced retired builder John Thibodeau. Thibodeau put up nearly 2,000 signs and tirelessly walked neighborhoods and offices throughout the county.

But Thibodeau's provocative ideas about reducing local government failed to win him the endorsements of the major daily newspapers. Smith, who runs an equipment rental business, served on the Tampa City Council between 1987 and 1991. He stressed a more pragmatic and moderate approach to governing.

Thibodeau could not be reached for comment after the returns came in.

The race for commission District 3, a majority Democratic, heavily black district that stretches from Tampa's inner city east to Seffner, was a battle between old and new: Harvey, the longtime president of the Longshoremen's Union local and a Tampa City Council member for 12 years, versus Scott, the 42-year-old senior pastor of 34th Street Church of God.

"I think this community wants new leadership, as opposed to Mr. Harvey's experience," Scott said.

Harvey, who lost by fewer than 100 votes, could not be reached for comment.

Scott will face Republican Barbara Merritt in the general election in November.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.