School Board member Cindy Stuart has filed to run for clerk of court in a Democratic primary against Kevin Beckner.
A veteran of two board terms from District 3 in north central Hillsborough, Stuart will present a serious challenge.
She will start her campaign far behind in fundraising and possibly with less countywide name recognition than Beckner, who has won two countywide races.
But she’ll also start with advantages, including endorsements from two local Democratic icons: outgoing Clerk Pat Frank and county Commissioner Les Miller, who filed to run for clerk this year before deciding to retire.
In an interview, Stuart emphasized the preparation she says serving on the school board has given her for the job. The school system, she noted, is the county’s largest employer with an annual budget of about $3 billion.
“I’ve proven over the last eight years that’s something I’m capable of handling,” she said.
Republican D.C. Goutoufas is also filed in the race, but for weeks, it has seemed possible that Beckner would win the office with no politically prominent opponent. Stuart’s entry changes that.
“I know it will be a sprint,” Stuart said of challenging Beckner in the Aug. 18 primary, at a time when the pandemic has dampened interest in local politics and opportunities to raise money and campaign.
But she noted that she won her board seat in 2012 by unseating a much better-funded incumbent, Jack Lamb.
Stuart, 53, lives in Northdale and has three children. She graduated in business from Florida International University and worked in insurance and as a PTA activist before running for the school board.
Beckner has been a local Democratic rising star but angered some Democrats with a primary challenge to Frank in 2016. He has since worked to mend those fences.
Stuart said local Democrats recruited her to run for clerk last year, but when Miller filed she decided to run for school board re-election. When he withdrew, she was heavily involved in the search for a new superintendent and his transition into office, she said.
“Now we’re done and have a good person in place,” she said.
Stuart will seek to re-designate about $3,125 from her school board campaign to the clerk’s race; Beckner has raised $99,642 and spent $34,017.
Republican Commissioner Sandy Murman is also filed as a candidate in the race, but it’s unclear whether she will qualify and run.
McDonald leaves D59 race
Citing the inability to contact voters in person during the coronavirus epidemic, Democrat Alex McDonald has suspended his campaign for the District 64 state House seat.
That leaves Jessica Harrington as the only Democrat in the race. Harrington said she believes Democrats concentrating their support behind one candidate, with no primary contest, will boost her chances.
Meanwhile, Harrington has brought on veteran local Democratic field organizer Malanda Schmitz as her campaign manager.
Weatherford was ethicist, labor advocate
Local Democrats and others are mourning the passage of Roy Carter Weatherford, 76, long-time East Hillsborough Democratic activist, philosopher, ethicist and organized labor advocate who died at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa Sunday of complications from surgery after a fall.
Weatherford, who held a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard University, was former president of the United Faculty of Florida chapter and professor and acting department chairman in philosophy at the University of South Florida.
He and his wife Doris Weatherford, a writer specializing in women’s history, formed the backbone of Democratic politics in East Hillsborough.
Contact William March at firstname.lastname@example.org.