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Nancy Millan charts her own course in Hillsborough tax collector race

Millan stands by the work of Doug Belden as tax collector, saying he has set “the gold standard” for customer service, but also says there are things she’d do differently.

Nearing a Democratic primary likely to pick the next Hillsborough County tax collector, candidate Nancy Millan is asserting her independence from the Republican she’s worked for in the tax collector’s office for more than 20 years — Doug Belden.

In a recent candidate forum and interview, Millan emphasized that even though most of her career has been under Belden, and even though he’s been heavily involved in her campaign, “I do have to become an individual … As a candidate it is important to set myself apart as to what I plan to do and my own vision.”

There are also political reasons for that.

Millan has been a Democrat since 1993 but little involved in politics. In the primary, in which only Democrats can vote, she faces April Griffin, a former school board member with a long history of working in the local Democratic Party and support from some prominent party activists.

Former school board member April Griffin

The only Republican running, TK Mathew, doesn’t appear a threat. His campaign has received only three contributions from persons other than himself, and of the $34,874 he’s spent, $22,200 was to pay his qualifying fee and repay part of his own loans to the campaign.

As of this week, Millan’s campaign website listed 16 prominent individual endorsers, all Democrats, but not Belden, who has endorsed and raised money for her. Millan said that’s an oversight by a campaign staffer who manages the site. But asked in last week’s Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum who her mentors were, she mentioned five Democratic women — Pam Iorio, Alex Sink, Janet Cruz, Betty Castor and Kathy Castor, all her endorsers — but not Belden.

TK Mathew [ Courtesy of TK Mathew ]

Millan has also received a recent endorsement that may help her battle to win Democratic voters, from the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, a newspaper insiders say is influential in Tampa’s Black community.

Millan stands by Belden’s work as tax collector, saying he has set “the gold standard” for customer service, but also says there are things she’d do differently.

In a recent Times story on customer service problems during the pandemic, Millan and Griffin both said they would have handled it differently. Millan says she plans to reallocate some resources and reorganize the office.

“I’m proud of what Doug has done and fortunate he gave me the opportunity to grow within the organization, But it is important to separate myself and introduce my vision of what I plan on doing,” she said. “He has set a great foundation, but I don’t plan to just stay with the status quo.”

Millan also said she’s happy to be endorsed by her own boss and also by public defender Julianne Holt, for whom Griffin formerly worked for 10 months.

Anti-Spano PAC forms, but RTL endorses him

An influential Republican political consultant, Tallahassee-based David Johnson, has formed a PAC to oppose U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, in the primary against Lakeland city Commissioner Scott Franklin.

But Spano has also received a potentially important endorsement from the Florida Right to Life PAC.

Johnson, a former state GOP executive director whose history dates to Jeb Bush’s 1990′s gubernatorial campaigns, formed the Wingman PAC in March, but it has just made its first expenditures, $66,125 for a video ad, a Facebook page and website criticizing Spano.

The ad focuses on the investigations into finance irregularities in Spano’s 2018 campaign, calling him “corrupt.” Spano has acknowledged he broke the law by borrowing money from friends and then lending it to his campaign but says he didn’t know it was illegal.

Information on funding sources for the PAC won’t be available until a reporting deadline next week. So far, it lists only a $1,000 donation from Johnson. He wouldn’t provide further details before the deadline, but his involvement is an indication of establishment Republican opposition to Spano.

Johnson said he formed the PAC as a service to the party because of he considers Spano “a weak candidate.” The congressional district, spanning east Hillsborough County, Lakeland and Clermont, leans Republican, but Democrats believe they could flip it because of Spano’s problems.

“This is a very tough year for Republicans and I don’t believe Ross Spano is going to win the seat,” Johnson said. “I believe Republicans have to come together and get the strongest candidate – one that’s not under federal investigation.”

The Spano campaign said in a statement that the Wingman ad “contains no truth, facts or vision for solving the problems our country faces” and are part of Franklin’s “desperate, last-ditch effort to save a floundering campaign.”

The Florida Right to Life PAC, meanwhile, has announced endorsing Spano in the primary.

RTL President Lynda Bell of Tallahassee acknowledged that both Spano and Franklin are “very pro-life,” but said Spano has a 100 percent anti-abortion voting record and that the PAC always endorses incumbents with such a record. “We always stick with those who have been loyal to the unborn,” she said.

Henderson, Schiff announce backers

April Schiff and Clarice Henderson are announcing backers in their unusual race to be the Hillsborough GOP state committeewoman, a local delegate to the governing body of the state Republican backers.

Henderson has announced backing from U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, county Commissioner Stacy White, state Reps. Anthony Sabatini and Mike Beltran, Christian right activist Terry Kemple, conservative broadcasters Jack Harris and Tedd Webb, several local party officials and other GOP state committee members.

Clarice Henderson [ Courtesy of Clarice Henderson ]

Schiff has announced endorsements from Tax Collector Doug Belden, former county party Chair Deborah Cox-Roush, former state party Chair Carole Jean Jordan, former Secretary of State Sandra Mortham, former county Commissioners Chris Hart and Victor Crist, prominent donor Hung Mai, the local Patriots for Trump organization and 29 other local GOP activists and voters.

April Schiff. [ Times (2010) ]

Schiff’s challenge to Henderson, who currently holds the post, amounts to a challenge to the leadership of the local party by Chairman James Waurishuk, a strong Donald Trump backer known for incendiary anti-Democratic social media posts.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.

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