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Builders give Murman another $300,000 in Hillsborough commission race

Murman’s opponent, Pat Kemp, has advocated sharply increased impact fees to pay for the costs of new residential development.

Local homebuilders and developers, who have already heavily supported Sandy Murman’s Hillsborough county commissioner race with scores of individual contributions, gave her another $300,000 in two lump sums in September, bringing her total fundraising so far to more than $750,000.

Murman, a sitting commissioner term-limited in her District 1 seat, is challenging Commissioner Pat Kemp’s re-election to a countywide seat, which would give Murman a new term limit.

Much of the development industry opposes Kemp, who has advocated sharply increased impact fees to pay the costs of new residential development.

Kemp has raised $165,932 and been endorsed by the 13,000-member Greater Tampa Realtors. They are likely to make a comparatively smaller contribution to her.

Hillsborough Commissioner Pat Kemp’s is being challenged by term-limited commissioner Sandy Murman for the countywide seat. Times (2019)

Murman’s $300,000 came in the form of a $200,000 contribution from the Tampa Bay Builders Association to Murman’s independent political committee, For the Future of Tampa Bay Families; plus $100,000 from the Tampa Bay Business Coalition, a committee formed and heavily backed by homebuilders to support candidates it considers business-friendly.

For the Future has raised at least $390,250 in all, while Murman has also raised $361,877 in her campaign account, with finance reports covering the end of September not yet posted.

The TBBA is a 501(c)(6) non-profit, which can do political activity as long as it can show that is not its primary purpose.

It brought in about $1.4 million and spent about $1.3 million in 2017, its most recent year for available IRS reports. Spokeswoman Jennifer Motsinger said this year’s figures would be higher.

Motsinger use first ref if cut above said the group made the contribution because, “Sandy has been a long-time leader in the community … It’s not just that she’s been good to the industry.” She said Kemp “has tried to demonize the industry just for trying to build some houses.”

Kemp argues that low impact fees, some not raised for years or decades, have forced taxpayers to subsidize the industry with roads, schools and utilities.

Murman said industry members are aware that she voted to impose their “fair share” of impact fees, but “cannot support Kemp’s extreme agenda that will keep our economy shuttered and kill jobs.”

Franklin: “Restructure” and privatize Social Security

Republican congressional District 15 candidate Scott Franklin is advocating restructuring and at least partially privatizing Social Security, which he says could be done without affecting people now retired or nearing retirement.

November's race for the 15th Congressional District seat pits Democrat Alan Cohn (left) against Republican Scott Franklin (right). [ Alan Cohn/City of Lakeland ]

Franklin appears to be advocating an approach like that proposed unsuccessfully in 2005 by former President George W. Bush, in which workers would put part of their Social Security taxes into private, individual investment accounts. Currently, workers' Social Security taxes are used to pay benefits for current retirees, and the excess is invested in treasury bonds to fund future benefits.

Franklin talked about Social Security in a Plant City Chamber of Commerce forum when asked how he would cut the federal budget to deal with deficits resulting from the pandemic.

“We need to take a real hard look at some of the entitlement programs that we have … and restructure some of these long-term promises,” he said.

Social Security, he said, “was never meant for people to retire and live another 30 years or so just off the government dole” and “should have been indexed along the way to be more reflective of life expectancy.”

“Nothing we should do would impact anyone who’s currently retired or approaching retirement,” Franklin said, but for younger workers, he advocated “more of a defined contribution program than a defined benefit plan,” meaning something similar to a 401(K) investment plan.

Franklin faces Democrat Alan Cohn for the seat now held by Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover.

Cohn said Franklin’s words mean he wants to “end Social Security as we know it” and “does not think the federal government should help seniors retire with dignity.”

Franklin spokeswoman Amanda Bevis called that “a lie to appeal to voters,” and said Franklin “believes we must preserve the programs that seniors have paid into and depend on.”

St. Pete mayoral race inches toward the starting line

There are only faint signs so far, obscured by the sound and fury of the presidential campaigns, but another highly competitive mayoral race is beginning in St. Petersburg including a faceoff between two popular Democrats — county Commissioner Ken Welch and city Councilwoman Darden Rice.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. [ DOUGLAS CLIFFORD | Times (2018) ]

Both confirmed this week that they plan on filing after the first of the year. Both are raising money, and Rice has already begun a smidgen of advertising and polling, paying about $500 for sponsored Facebook posts on abortion rights, voting rights and anti-gay discrimination.

Rice has raised $177,370 in her Friends of Darden Rice political committee, and Welch $45,580 in his Pelican PAC.

City Council member Darden Rice talks during a St. Pete City Council meeting where the council called in the mayor to answer for his decision to end talks with the Rays at the Sunshine Center, 330 5th St N, on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]

The two have been political allies in the past — “I think I’ve endorsed Darden in every race she’s been in,” Welch said this week.

There are signs that race and inclusiveness will be an issue in the 2021 race.

Noting that he was the second black county commissioner and would be the first black mayor, Welch said the city has made progress on race relations, but, “We need an inclusive approach, an administration that can speak to everyone.”

Rice responded that she is no stranger to diversity issues as a gay woman with a Jewish wife. She said the city is on “an incredible trajectory” but, “We have some world-class challenges, and I’ll be ready to step up to that without missing a beat.”

Tiger Bay clubs hold statewide forums

For the first time ever, 10 Tiger Bay Clubs from around Florida including Tampa’s and St. Petersburg’s will jointly present a series of online forums on the presidential race and proposed state constitutional amendments, free to the public on each club’s Facebook page and website.

The first forum will be noon Friday Oct. 9 on Amendment 3, which would set an open, top-two primary system for legislative, governor and Cabinet races. Confirmed panelists include amendment advocates and both state party chairs.